The Contending Modernities blog is an extension of the University of Notre Dame’s Contending Modernities initiative, a research project that explores the relationship between religion, modernity, and secularity. Its current focus is on the world’s two largest religious communities—Catholic and Muslim—as well as secular people and institutions. I’m blogging there about some of my recent and ongoing research on religion and new forms of capitalism in India and the Middle East. My first post stems from my research on call center employees in Bangalore and the role of religious practices and institutions—Catholicism in particular—in their lives:

When I set out to examine the lifestyle changes of employees working night shifts in India’s call centers, I was surprised to discover how outsourcing highlights some of the important tensions between new modes of secularity and new religious modernities emerging around the world….

It’s not something I intended to focus on at first, but religion emerged as a pertinent theme early on in my research. Many Hindu employees I interviewed made it a point to carry out their daily puja before going to work; some joined popular movements such as Art of Living, founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, which they said helped them achieve a balanced lifestyle and deal with anxiety; others mentioned the importance of caste and horoscopes in important life-decisions such as marriage. Some others expressed familiar secularist narratives of casting aside traditional religion as irrelevant to the modern age, but even many of these attended religious ceremonies and celebrate religious festivals—these were crucial elements of their relationships with their families. In fact, Smitha Radhakrishnan’s recent book provides an insightful account of the strong relationship between Hinduism, family, and national identity among Indian IT workers.

Religion was a similarly important factor among my Christian interviewees, Catholics and Protestants alike. Many strove to attend church services and prayer groups regularly, and frequently participated in practices such as daily prayer, Bible-reading, or Catholic devotionals. Others regularly attended church services, but at the same time found traditional Christianity to be too constraining. They called themselves “spiritual but not religious,” and assembled a bricolage of beliefs and practices from traditional Christianity and New Age spirituality, perhaps akin to what David Brooks, called “flexidoxy,” following one of his interviewees.

While the role of religion in the lives of these employees outside the workplace is certainly interesting, I was surprised to learn of some of the ways in which religion becomes present even in the labor process.

Read the full post here.