Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The hierarchies of help: South Asian service workers in New York City
by Chatterji, Miabi, Ph.D., New York University, 2010, 263; 3428036
Abstract (Summary)

Services are the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy and are sold to the working class as a source of sustainable employment that will replace manufacturing jobs. Drawing on ethnographic research with South Asian low-wage immigrant workers in three South Asian American commercial enclaves in New York City as well as their managers and Mexican and Central American coworkers, I challenge this vision of the service sector as a new haven of working-class stability. In-person service jobs are chronically contingent, insecure, and idiosyncratically managed, and contemporary urban services are largely unregulated, with weak enforcement of laws for worker protection. This environment leaves low-wage immigrant employees – the backbone of the industry – open to a wide range of abuses. Through analyzing my participants’ everyday conflicts with one another, their narrations of their dating and love lives, and their fraught interactions with their managers, this study shows how recent immigrants run a gauntlet of racialization, gendering, and the molding of class consciousness. In response, they fashion their own informal rules in order to make sense of their work world and define their positions within it. My analysis of their predicament, while extending the scholarship on urban immigrant communities, has critical implications for the politics of multiracial labor in the modern workplace.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ross, Andrew
Commitee: Davila, Arlene, Okihiro, Gary, Siu, Lok, Tu, Thuy Linh
School: New York University
Department: Social and Cultural Analysis
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Cultural anthropology, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Gender, Immigration, Labor, Masculinity, New York City, Race, Restaurants, Service workers, South Asian
Publication Number: 3428036
ISBN: 978-1-124-33276-5
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