Congratulations to Sociology Ph.D candidate Rianka Roy on receiving the Graduate Research Grant through the Human Rights Institute with her research proposal titled “Mapping Transnational Rights: Indian Tech Workers’ Mobilization in India and the US”! This grant aims to promote research in human rights projects and related questions and is open to all JD, LLM, master’s, and doctoral students.
Using a human rights lens, I explore how Indian tech workers organize through labor unions and community-based activism in India and the US. In both countries, Indian tech workers face obstacles to collective action. To facilitate corporate expansion, successive governments in India have prevented tech workers from organizing. And in the US, temporary visas alienate nonimmigrant Indian tech workers from substantive rights and hold them in indentured status. Since the current neoliberal corporate regime continues to weaken labor laws, tech workers increasingly seek recourse to human rights. Studying the goals and strategies of their mobilization in two countries, my dissertation—a multi-sited ethnography—will explain how Indian tech workers invoke human rights discourses and contribute to transnational labor movements. I interview union organizers in India and community organizers in the US, and participate in their events to understand the local, transnational and intersectional nuances in their organizing methods. While tech workers have relative class privilege, I argue that human rights policies and practitioners have to be cognizant of the challenges faced by workers in various skill and wage groups. Closer attention to the layered meanings of neoliberal “privilege” will enable human rights policies to develop tools and strategies that can challenge the underlying precarity in various labor and citizenship categories.