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Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences

Purple-Collar Labor: Transgender Workers and Queer Value at Global Call Centers in the Philippines

By Emmanuel David, 2015

This article examines new patterns of workplace inequality that emerge as transgender people are incorporated into the global labor market. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 41 transgender call center employees in the Philippines, i develop the concept “purple- collar labor” to describe how transgender workers—specifically trans women—are clus- tered, dispersed, and segregated in the workplace and how their patterned locations in social organizational structures serve a particular value-producing function. These pat- terned inclusions, i argue, come with explicit and implicit interactional expectations about how “trans” should be put to work in the expansion and accumulation of global capital. in this way, the study examines the production and extraction of queer value and the folding of trans women’s gendered performances into commercial exchange. Data show how the affective labor of transgender employees is used to help foster productivity, ease workplace tensions, and boost employee morale. This study of transgender employment experiences opens new lines of inquiry for understanding gender inequalities at work, and it builds on scholarship that combines political economy approaches with transgender studies.

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