This semester, I enjoyed presenting Appropriately Indian as a guest lecturer in two very different settings. In September, I met with Caitrin Lynch's class at Olin Engineering College. In November, I met with Rosanna Hertz's class at Wellesley.
Caitrin Lynch's course, The Human Connection, is a very unique course designed to stress writing skills for first year engineering students. Appropriately Indian was one of three books required for the course. Because the book is actually about engineers, it seemed to be particularly germane for these students. I presented some of my newer work on corporate culture to them, offering them examples of some of the soft skills training manuals that new recruits must use. Students were familiar with these kinds of trainings in the American context, but were surprised about the level of detail and concern given to items such as dressing, which are not such a strong focus in similar trainings they might encounter. In fact, Olin students seem to receive very firm-specific advice--that for an interview at Google, one should dress less formally, but at Sun or Microsoft, one should dress more conscientiously. This type of advice is extremely different from the advice given to Indian engineers--that there is a single, accepted, "global" corporate culture that everyone must adapt to.
Rosanna Hertz's class was organized around questions of gender and work. In this talk, I emphasized both the similarity of the dilemmas faced by women in Indian IT compared to women working in similar settings elsewhere, as well as some of the unique cultural characteristics. In particular, I emphasized the ways in which the everyday navigations of Indian IT women are linked to a much broader range of symbolic and cultural processes, demarcating a good family that is the centerpiece of a global sense of Indianness.
In both these course settings, I found the students very responsive and interested in the ideas presented in the book, and particularly by some of the specific stories of individuals that are woven throughout. It's also exciting to me that the book resonates with a group of engineering students as well as among a group of women's studies students! And a big thank you to Caitrin and Rosanna for inviting me!