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Thursday, April 24, 2008

World-Information City Bangalore

"The globalized IT industry in India is an international island of privilege in a sea of local despair", said Indian writer and critic Arundathi Roy at the World-Information City conference, the concluding session of a one-week programme of events that took place at Bangalore 14 - 20 November, 2005. Speaking a short distance away from Bangalore's IT corridors, Roy stressed the parallels between the technologies of the colonial period, roads and railways, and the contemporary expansion of IT into the rural areas. Corporatization of agriculture, public subsidies for the IT industry, slum clearance and biopiracy combine into a scenario of extreme violence: "Since 1994 something like 26,000 farmers have committed suicide. And in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi, 400,000 people will simply be evicted over night".

Surveillance expert David Lyon views Bangalore call centers as the sites of "social sorting", the automatized hierarchisation of social standing according to criteria of profit generation, as in database marketing. Clouded by a rhetoric of service and privacy, political accountability is being eroded by invisible streams of data.

However, as Bangalore-based feminist and historian Lata Mani pointed out, "The logic of capitalist globalisation is not the only logic at play. The sheer magnitude of the cultural and class difference between the smash and grab globalisers, and their culturally Other neighbours who vastly outnumber them make the former dependent on the hospitality of the latter" - a statement that finds an empirical grounding in Solly Benjamin's work on urban land conflicts, also presented at the conference.

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