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identity and the commodification of language in the call centers of Pakistan

18 January 2010

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Language ideology, identity and the commodification of language in the call centers of Pakistan

by Tariq Rahman

(National Institute of Pakistan Studies Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad Pakistan drt_rahman at yahoo.com)

Language in Society / Volume 38 / Issue 02, pp 233 -258

Published online: 16 April 2009

DOI:10.1017/S0047404509090344

ABSTRACT

This article relates the language ideologies of Pakistan in general, and its call centers in particular, with the language policies and practices of the latter. The specific policy focused upon is the commodification of English with a near-native (American or British) accent as linguistic capital. These accents are indexed to the desired foreign identities which the workers of call centers perform in telephonic interaction with clients as part of their sales strategy. This crossing over to native-speaker linguistic identities is not always successful. When successful, however, some workers in the call centers pass as native speakers in certain contexts and for certain purposes. Such practices and the policies upon which they are contingent are consequences of language ideologies that entail language discrimination against the workers of the call centers by the Pakistani English-using elite, and vice versa. (English, commodification of language, accent, linguistic capital, language policy, identity, passing, crossing, call centers, Pakistan)