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Reading and Writing in the Global Workplace

Gender, Literacy, and Outsourcing in Ghana

Beatrice Quarshie Smith

Reading and Writing in the Global Workplace: Gender, Literacy, and Outsourcing in Ghana by Beatrice Quarshie Smith explores the conditions that underlie the outsourcing of US data-processing work in Ghana. Here Beatrice Quarshie Smith describes the convergence and interplay of at least four different socio-economic forces: (1) the digital and satellite technology enabling virtual environments for global outsourced data-processing; (2) the historical development of Ghana as a politically-stable Anglophone society with a relatively strong tradition of public education; (3) the neoliberal economic restructuring policies advanced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and (4) the ready availability of women seeking to enter the formal wage economy either to seek independence from their roles within traditional families, or in order to support their families. The author’s comparative study of two distinctly different workplaces reveals significant insights about problems of organizational hierarchy and management-employee relations in the cross-cultural environments of out-sourced business and IT process work. Through extensive interviews, the book sheds light on the educational backgrounds, day-to-day struggles, fears, and aspirations of the workers. Quarshie Smith develops this multi-faceted analysis with keen insights into the representational limitations and ethical responsibilities of the researcher. This pioneering study about outsourced data-processing work in West Africa opens up a new area for research and offers a fresh perspective from which to consider outsourcing in other regions of the globe. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 210Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-3784-0 • Hardback • June 2012 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-0-7391-3786-4 • eBook • June 2012 • $79.00 • (£52.95)
Beatrice Quarshie Smith is an associate professor of Literacy Studies in the Department of Humanities at Michigan Technological University where she is also the Director of the Intensive English as a Second Language Program. Her research interests include explorations of the relationships among globalization, gender, English language literacies and work-related practices.
List of Tables
Part One: Preface and Background
Preface: Gender, Biography, and the Researcher: Locating the “Self” in the Study of “New” Workspaces
Chapter 1: Gender and Globalizing Processes
“Knowledge” Work and “Development”
The Sites, Research Paradigms and the Issues
Workplace Literacies and “New” Work
Overview of the Book
Chapter 2: The Ethnographic Context: Ghana Fifty-Five Years after Independence
The Nation State: a Political, Social and Economic Evolution
Literacies, Development and Work
The Companies, Management Personnel and Research Participants
Part Two: Gender in the Globalization Debate
Chapter 3: Gender Politics and Women in Ghana: A Short “Herstory”
Women and Education
Women and Work
Women and Work in New Times
Conclusion: Transnational Feminist Activism and Cross Border Articulations
Chapter 4: Gender, Knowledge and “New” Work
Gender in the Globalization Debate
Development, Gender and Macro/Micro-Analyses of Globalization
Feminisms, Politics, Labels and Discourses on Gender
Gender and Neoliberalism
Gender, Technology and Globalizing Processes
Gender, Knowledge, and “New” Work
Part Three: Research Practices
Chapter 5: Multi-sited Ethnography and Hybrid Spaces
Seeking Entry
Empirical Material Collection
Designing research Practices
The Field and Fieldwork in “Ethnographic” research
Ethnographic Practices in Hybrid Environments
Ethnography and Virtual Work: Other conceptions of “Field”
Methodological Challenges
Ethical Tensions in Research in Hybrid Settings
Researching Women’s Lives on and off Line
Part Four: Literacy Practices in the “New” Workspaces of the Global South
Chapter 6: Outsourcing as “Glocalization:” Material Practices and Fluid Workspaces
The “Laborscape:” Continuities and Discontinuities in Geographies
The Network and the Transformation of Work
Glocalizing/hybridizing Labor Practices: Shaping Work Cultures
Why Outsourcing?: Work, Gender and Identity in the 21st Century Ghana
Work, Desire and the Imagination
Chapter 7: Literacies of Outsourcing: “Scapes” and “Flows” of “New” Work
Literacy, Self-making and the Co-construction of Cyber Workers
Recruiting Cyber Workers: Aims, Values, and Realities of Literacies in Use
Situated Literacies: Contexts and Practices
Online Literacies
Offline Literacies at Work
Literacies and the Negotiation of Asymmetrical Power Relations
Part Five: Conclusion—New Workplace Practices for New Times
Chapter 8: The “New” World of Work: Women and Workplace Literacy Practices—A Social Practice
Education, Knowledge and Work
Implications of Networks
Work and the Imagination: Of “Scapes” and “Flows”
Is Globalized Work Empowering for the Women who Work at CTI and CDN?
Policy and Practice: Some Implications
Contributions of the Project
Unfinished Business: Workplace Literacy and Globalization
Representation and Legitimization: Nola’s Question
Beatrice Quarshie Smith’s rich and rigorous ethnography provides a nuanced analysis of the complex gendered interactions between the local and global, while also raising important questions about the nature of knowledge, labor, and the workplace in a networked global economy. There is a dearth of strong empirical scholarship on gender and globalization in Africa, and this book is an important and timely contribution.
Boatema Boateng, University of California, San Diego

Using a multi-site design, Quarshie-Smith exposes the ways that outsourcing operates as a gendered globalizing activity in Ghana. The contributions to our understanding of processes of globalization and to the need for the development of new methodologies that enrich our understanding of literacy in networked environments in this book are vital and significant. Anyone who thinks they know about networked literacies and gender—and anyone who wants to know—needs to read this book.
Nancy DeJoy, Michigan State University

Based on a carefully reflexively constructed ethnographic research design, Quarshie Smith offers a comprehensive account of the workplace literacy practices of Ghanaian women working for two US-based outsourcing companies in Ghana. . . .[T]he author’s discussions of information communication technologies may be useful to the emerging field of new literacy.
Discourse & Communication