Paper Affairs: Discipline by the Dossier in a Mao-Era Work Unit

Chang, J. M. Chris. Paper Affairs: Discipline by the Dossier in a Mao-Era Work Unit. [En ligne] Administory, vol. 4, n° 1 (2019), pp. 125-140. Disponible sur: Sciendo<> (consulté le 28 avril 2020)

J. M. Chris Chang est enseignant à l’université Columbia, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.


This article examines how dossier files informed the handling of personnel misconduct in Chinese work units using an investigation of adultery as a case study. By the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the disciplinary functions of the dossier system were an embedded feature of social control in the work unit, partially shifting responsibility for policing petty crime to local administrators. In this case, the revelation of an extramarital relationship in 1974 set off a bureaucratic operation to produce documentary proof of the alleged wrongdoing. The thick case file prepared by the work unit investigators grew to include a tranche of seized love letters, a series of dubious confessions, and detailed bureaucratic reports. The preparation of evidence bound for the dossier demonstrates the extent to which the demands of documentation formed a distinct end of the investigative process, while revealing how people and paper were mobilized to deal with a minor administrative affair.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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