Proprietary freedoms in an IT office: how Indian IT workers negotiate code and cultural branding

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Abstract

This article explores how Indian IT workers who have been hired on short-term contracts in Germany negotiate their racialisation as fast, cheap and disposable. They elaborate modes of freedom that take advantage of the pace of work and its varied temporalities while simultaneously developing a critique of corporate coding as limiting mobility. Their critique upends the usual way that freedom and ownership are conceived, since they try to own the code they write rather than making claims for ‘open’ or ‘free’ software. Indian IT workers’ strategies demonstrate the need for a reconsideration of the meaning of freedom within corporate coding economies and neoliberal knowledge regimes more generally. This article develops a concept of ‘proprietary freedom’ to do so.

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