High-Tech Housewives Arrives!

My latest book, High-Tech Housewives: Indian IT Migrants, Gendered Labor, and Transmigration, was published by The University of Washington Press! You can order you copy here:

High-Tech Housewives

Indian IT Workers, Gendered Labor, and Transmigration


Tech companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft promote the free flow of data worldwide, while relying on foreign temporary IT workers to build, deliver, and support their products. However, even as IT companies use technology and commerce to transcend national barriers, their transnational employees face significant migration and visa constraints. In this revealing ethnography, Amy Bhatt shines a spotlight on Indian IT migrants and their struggles to navigate career paths, citizenship, and belonging as they move between South Asia and the United States.

Through in-depth interviews, Bhatt explores the complex factors that shape IT transmigration and settlement, looking at Indian cultural norms, kinship obligations, friendship networks, gendered and racialized discrimination in the workplace, and inflexible and unstable visa regimes that create worker vulnerability. In particular, Bhatt highlights women’s experiences as workers and dependent spouses who move as part of temporary worker programs. Many of the women interviewed were professional peers to their husbands in India but found themselves “housewives” stateside, unable to secure employment because of visa restrictions. Through her focus on the unpaid and feminized placemaking and caregiving labor these women provide, Bhatt shows how women’s labor within the household is vital to the functioning of the flexible and transnational system of IT itself.

Amy Bhatt is associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is the coauthor of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest.

“Mapping the arrival of H-1B workers from India and marriage migration, their lives in Seattle, and following them on their return to India, High-Tech Housewives provides a longue durée perspective on Indian transmigrants. Thick with descriptive narrative, High-Tech Housewives takes us into the lives of these individuals.”
-Sharmila Rudrappa, author of Discounted Life: The Price of Global Surrogacy in India
High-Tech Housewives makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the transnational circulation of technical labor, by highlighting the role of the household in the reproduction of the global Indian IT workforce. Through rich ethnographic detail, the book documents the experiences and predicaments of dependent spouses of temporary H1-B visa workers in the US and after their return to India, providing a human face to current debates on immigration. It is a welcome addition to the transnational and migration studies, gender and labor studies, and anthropology.”
-Carol Upadhya, author of Reengineering India: Work, Capital, and Class in an Offshore Economy

“A seminal book about how US immigration policy influences the lives of temporary workers and their families, many of whom find themselves in liminal spaces, in between nations, homes, and employment. Amy Bhatt provides readers with a clearer understanding of the problematic positions that Indian temporary workers and their families face as a result of immigration laws that prioritize economic gain over the needs of migrants.”
-Deepa Iyer, author of We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future

“A thoughtful examination of how immigrant women build lives and labor within the constraints of the US state, high-tech capitalism, and transnationalism, and enable a global economy.”
-Pawan Dhingra, Amherst College

High-Tech Housewives provides a long overdue study on the large but overlooked group of temporary migrant professionals in the United States, H-1B workers, and their dependents, H-4 visa holders. This book makes an invaluable contribution by focusing on the plight of H-4 dependents, the wives, who are multiply displaced by their disqualification from labor market participation, increasing their dependence on their husbands and heightening the isolation of their migration.”
-Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, author of Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work

“Amy Bhatt offers an empirically rich, theoretically nuanced account of high-tech immigration to the United States, drawing important attention to the interplay of gender, occupation, and family dynamics. This book is essential reading on how the ‘temporary’ migration of high-skilled workers and their families are fundamentally reshaping our notions of citizenship, social relations, and national belonging.”
-Karthick Ramakrishnan, director of AAPI Data and professor of public policy, University of California Riverside

Building on #MeToo’s Momentum to Embrace Our Voices

I, along with several great colleagues, were quoted in this piece by  about the #MeToo movement in Ms. Magazine:

“In India, #MeToo is hardly the first digital turning point in the fight to end rape and sexual assault. “An attempt has been made in India to protect women,” says Amy Bhatt, associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, “but legislation has mostly been used to limit women, rather than to protect them. Young women activists are pushing against that and using these type of hybrid online and in personal awareness-raising campaigns to create change and demand accountability.””

 

Little India-End of the American Dream?

Check out this article by Zofeen Maqsood in Little India about the changing and challenging immigration landscape that South Asian immigrants are facing under the Trump administration:

An excerpt from End of the American Dream:

“The media has focused extensively on the Trump administration’s harsher policies against undocumented immigrants, travel bans from Muslim majority countries, and building a wall at the southern border.

Dr. Amy Bhatt

Dr. Amy Bhatt, associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, says: “I think there is a problem with thinking of this as just a H-1B or H-4 problem. The current administration is attacking immigrants on all fronts, from Dreamers and DACA recipients, to people who have been living and contributing to the U.S. economy without documentation, to refugees and asylum seekers.”

 

Analysis in The Indian Express

I had the pleasure of writing for the #GenderAnd series in The Indian Express. In this piece, “From dependents to deportees: How US immigration policy is impacting Indian families,” I write about the impacts that changes to the H-1B/H-4 visa program are likely to have on Indian families in the U.S. and call for greater immigrant alliances.

“The case of high-skilled migration is only one front of the anti-immigration onslaught. Even though the rationale of H-1B/H-4 restrictions are presumably to benefit American workers, there is a more insidious goal: reducing the numbers of immigrant families overall. Now framed as “chain migration,” new attempts to cut back on family based immigration for all are afoot in Congress and the White House.” Read more.

 

 

 

Amazon Article in The Conversation

In White men may be biggest winners when a city snags Amazon’s HQ2, Dillon Mahmoudi and I use our research to examine the potential gender and race effects of Amazon’s HQ2 on host cities.

“Cities have long been known for “smokestack chasing,” or offering lucrative tax incentives and other subsidies to lure companies or factories from elsewhere. These policies often don’t work.

You might call today’s race to get Amazon’s second headquarters a modern form of that phenomenon as municipalities compete in a zero-sum game for tech company outposts.

Yet all of the presumed economic benefits are problematically predicated on the companies’ continued growth, which is never a sure thing. The negative impacts, however, are much more certain.”

Read more at The Conversation.

Article in Ms. Magazine

Check out this analysis by and myself for the Ms. Magazine blog on the Trump administration’s attacks on H-4 visa holders.

The Trump Administration’s Visa Rules Are an Attack on Immigrant Women

“Work restrictions have an impact on H-4 visa holders’ careers, mental health and sense of belonging. A woman who migrated with her spouse and had a computer engineering degree shared her frustration about waiting for the right to work. “I wanted to come to the United States so I could start my own career,” she told Ms. “But now, I am sitting at home, with nothing to do. Every day is like a jail.”” Read more here

Analysis on The Conversation

My latest piece about recent changes to the H-1B/H-4 visa program is up on The Conversation. In it, I talk about the history of family reunification and why it is vital to the U.S. economy. Here is an excerpt and you can read the full article here:

“On Dec. 14, the Trump administration announced a regulatory change that would strip spouses of high-skilled foreign workers of the right to work in the United States.

The apparent aim is to promote Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order issued in April. It’s also part of efforts to scale back the H-1B visa program, which allows workers to bring spouses and children under H-4 visas.

Besides likely having a negative impact on industries that use H-1B visas, such as information technology, software development and finance, my own research shows that it will also, intentionally or not, disproportionately harm women.”

 

Quoted in KCTS

I discuss the uptick in South Asian women’s political leadership in this piece by Laila Kazmi: “In Washington State, South Asian American Women Are Ushering in a New Era of Political Engagement” (November 2, 2017).

The article notes:

“Compared to previous elections, the tally of female South-Asian candidates is significant, according to Dr. Amy Bhatt, co-author of “Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest” and associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of Maryland.

“[South Asian Americans] have had such a low historic presence in elected offices at all levels across the United States,” Bhatt says.

But Jayapal’s election last November to U.S. Congress may represent a turning point. Her victory and the fact that Washington State is home to one of the oldest South Asian immigrant communities in the country — dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Sikhs first arrived here to work in timber and farming — might explain why we’re seeing such an interest in running for office.

Early South-Asian immigrants came mostly as laborers and those who arrived in the mid-20th century generally came either for higher education opportunities or to join family members already here. They tended to not be very political, according to Bhatt.

“But, now we are seeing first- and second-generation immigrants [running for offices], in part because the community today is more complex and multigenerational,” says Bhatt, herself a second-generation Indian American. “There is also the awareness that with rising Islamophobia and rising xenophobia in the country, if we don’t start taking a stronger stance, politically, we are also going to be victimized.”

Why the Tech Industry Needs a Day without Immigrants

In case you missed it, check out Sareeta Amrute and my article about why Huffington Post about the need for cross-immigrant group solidarity in the face of the Trump administration’s increasing restrictions on immigration. Here is an excerpt and you can read the full article here:

Whether addressing asylum seekers or knowledge workers, these immigration restrictions make one thing clear: all immigrants are vulnerable, regardless of education level, background, country of origin, or religion. For years, the United States, European countries and Australia have prioritized “skilled” professionals over “unskilled” workers. These divisions obscure the underlying commonality that immigrants face as outsiders, regardless of their status. Now, these pretensions have fallen away.

Beyond joining the groundswell of outrage condemning the administration’s attack on immigration, tech workers and the companies that employ them need to recognize and make common cause with all immigrants, as well as with the movement for black lives, and the movement to protect indigenous sovereignty. This means thinking historically, standing up when low-income immigrants are attacked and finding solidarity across immigration status.