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Computing Bodies in Platforms: Reading Subjectivities in Two Work Platforms in India

Topics: Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Digital Geographies, Platform Labor, Platform Work
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Research on platform economies in the Global South suggests different groups of people experience heightened exclusion and marginalization in ways that cannot be mapped onto either digital colonialism or empowerment (Graham et al 2017). Although a small percentage of gig labor seem to be taking advantage of this new work regime, exclusions and inclusions, and their imbrication with social identities, are embedded into these labor structures (Chugh 2016). For example, Lalvani’s (2019) research shows how women negotiate fictive kinships that enable men to access the material and sensorial circuits of labor on food delivery platforms in Mumbai, India.

This politics of identity plays out as more numbers of people, hitherto marginalized from the labor market, seem to be enrolling in a discourse of entrepreneurialism and individuation (signaling a difference) simultaneously with the advancement of a masculinist discourse of digital service platforms (signaling business-as-usual).

In this paper, I will interrogate the continuities and disjuncture/s between two work platforms that mobilize a discourse of entrepreneurialism for women and more broadly, other marginalized groups. Comparing the two platforms—one funded by foreign and domestic investors and the other a platform co-op, I will ask the following questions. How are subjectivities produced by the laboring bodies through the mobilizations of identities and their identification (or not) of bodies as extensions of “computation service” (Irani 2015)? What sort of cultural work does the entrepreneurial narrative for the marginalized do? What do their strategies with regard to the platform economy suggest about the productive possibilities of platforms?

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