Work, Employment, Labor

Work, Employment, Labor

Expanding beyond the empirical context of the legal profession, I am interested in the various ways work and labor markets contexts create and reproduce inequality more generally. In particular, I am interested in the location of corporate power, the role of law in shaping and guiding its various subjectivities, and the range of unintended consequences and overlooked actors affected by its resultant labor market shifts and policies.

In the past, this has involved research on the impact of market regulation on professional stratification and mobility, the socio-legal implications of process outsourcing, and the “Intentional Invisibility” that women have to employ in order to navigate gender-biased workplaces. To build from these findings, I am particularly interested in two lines of future research. The first is the impact of work-related migration on understudied actors – i.e., “left-behind” spouses and children. When we expand the lens to include the perspectives of actors that are not generally in focus, what do we see? Following this general theoretical motivation, the second, still nascent, line of research targets its attention to the role of “other work” actors – i.e. extended family, alternate partnerships and support networks, caregivers, domestic workers, household help – and the criticality of including them as primary stakeholders while envisaging organizational policies.

+ Families of Migrant Laborers

Since January 2017, I have been collecting data for a new pilot project studying these intersections between women, work and family from an entirely different perspective than my early and current work on gender in the legal profession. Focusing on migrants’ spouses in Malappuram, a prominent sending district in Kerala, this project pays attention to the lived experience of social mobility that this labor process offers for those not migrating. Indians constitute the majority of the population in the UAE and Kerala sends the largest group among them. Yet, despite several documented effects on life in Kerala, we know little about whether and how migration is implicated in gender development. Families of labor migrants, especially migrants’ spouses who remain in the sending country, are generally conceptualized as “left behind” – often in situations that might not be conducive to their well-being. Yet, little is know about them, as much of the literature focuses on the migrant workers themselves. Deviating from the general conceptualization of migrant wives as “left behind” spouses, this project instead introduces a more directed focus on them as important motivators in the decision-making process, paying attention to both their agency in and mobility through a transnational imagined migration that they are not directly involved with themselves. This strain of questioning deals with the same broad themes of my general scholarship – i.e., law, globalization and inequality. But in approaching it from this distinctly different perspective, it offers fresh leverage on their collective interplay.



Ballakrishnen, Swethaa, Priya Fielding-Singh, and Devon Magliozzi. 2018. “Intentional Invisibility: Professional Women and the Navigation of Workplace Constrains.” | Sociological Perspectives DOI 0731121418782185

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa. 2018. “Nevertheless They Persisted: Gendered Frameworks and Socializaiton Advantages in Indian Professional Service Firms.” | Canadian Review of Sociology DOI 10.1111/cars.12207

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa. 2016. “India (International) Inc.: Global Work and the (Re-)Organization of Professionalism in Emerging Economies.” | The Routledge Companion to the Professions and Professionalism. Eds. Mike Dent, Ivy Bourgeault, Jean-Louis Denis and Ellen Kuhlmann. Routledge, pp. 265-82

Ballakrishnen, Swethaa. 2012. “‘I Love My American Job’: Professional Prestige in the Indian Outsourcing Industry and Global Consequences of an Expanding Legal Profession.” | International Journal of the Legal Profession Vol. 19 (2) 379-404

Research & Empirical Analysis of Labor Migration (REALM). 2016. Co-PI with Hannah Brückner, Migration and Kerala’s Gender Paradox ($31,820)

Stanford Sociology Department. 2014. Gender-Neutrality as the Norm: Do All New Organizations Have a Clean Chit? Research Opportunity Grant ($5000)

Stanford Vice-Provost of Graduate Education. 2013. Women in India’s “Global” Law: Globalization and Its Implications for Stratification in Corporate India. Diversity Research Opportunity Funds ($5000)

Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession. 2012. Women in New Emerging Organizations. Travel Grant ($1800)

The International Institute of Law and Sociology. 2011. Women in New Emerging Organizations. Juan Celaya Research Grant ($6800)