I am interested in understanding the flows of expertise, ideas, and goods that constitute the knowledge economy as a “global system” (Marcus & Fischer 1984; Marcus 1995; Tsing 2005), and the infrastructures that enable these interconnections. My previous research has examined the experiential and structural dimensions of the transnational migrations of Indian engineering students and professionals (between India and the United States), a system I call “technomigration.” In this research, which is also the subject of my upcoming book, I draw out ways in which systems of education, immigration laws and policies, notions of “global Indian” cosmopolitanism, transnational family formations, as well as legacies of (post)colonialism together shape the transnational trajectories that Indian technomigrants trace. What results, I argue, are peculiar social formations, at once privileged and not: privileged in their ability to live and work relatively successfully in socio-economic terms, and yet, as a social group, Indians in the United States remain largely isolated from mainstream society. This paradox, whereby (highly) skilled labor is simultaneously privileged in terms of its ability to be mobile, and yet also always temporary and transient, makes the figure of the “knowledge migrant” an exceptionally productive site to investigate emergent notions of selfhood and belonging under contemporary configurations of global capitalism. Hence, I am now interested in expanding my research on Indian technomigration to conceptualize the knowledge economy as a particular ecology of expertise in which newer conceptions of ethical personhood are being pioneered. This project, as I envisage it, will be designed as a multi-sited ethnography, in which the experiences of differently situated actors within the system (knowledge migrants in India, South Africa, and the United States, for example), will be understood as complementary, interdependent nodes that together make the system what it is.
This work builds on my doctoral research that has focused on the transnational movements of Indian engineering students and professionals between India and the United States. The research was designed as a multi-sited ethnography, and was carried out over a period of two years in Mumbai, India; Troy, NY; as well as other parts of the United States. This research was supported through a Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (HASS) fellowship awarded by RPI, and a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award# 0848540) awarded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The dissertation resulting from this research is entitled Engineering the Global Indian: Skills, Cosmopolitanism, and Families in Circuits of High-Tech Migrations between India and the United States. The dissertation is on file at Rensselaer Research Libraries under a Creative Commons license.