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"Jurisprudential Massage": Legal Fictions, Sectarian Citizenship, and the Epistemics of Dissent in Post-socialist China

By Andrea E. Pia

Cite As:
Pia, Andrea E. 2020. “"Jurisprudential Massage": Legal Fictions, Sectarian Citizenship, and the Epistemics of Dissent in Post-socialist China.” Cultural Anthropology 35, no. 4: 487–515.


While China leads the global race to high-tech surveillance, a homegrown low-tech institution of dissent management is currently experiencing a surprising revival: dispute mediation. Drawing on Confucian and socialist practices of justice, Yunnanese dispute mediators are today considerably innovating the jurisprudential techniques that frame the composition of conflict and the meaning of state laws in dispute settings. Jurisprudential massage is the emic term given to one such technique. Here I show how this technique stands for the deployment of therapeutic analogies and legal fictions with the aim of reorienting the political sensibilities of disputants toward a neo-paternalistic form of citizenship. Contributing to the anthropology of law and resistance, this article shows how civil dissent cannot only be physically quenched through state coercion and silenced by pervasive surveillance or tactical buyouts but can also be ushered off the political stage by a selective redrawing of the epistemic foundation of legality.



当中国政府在大力发展高精端社会监控技术的同时, —种土生的低端社会抗争管理机制, “争议调解”, 也正在蓬勃发展。在综合了孔子的正义观和相关的社会 主义实践经验之后,如今, 云南的争议调解人员在法理的应用上体现出了相当 的技术创新力。他们往往很有技巧性的用法律来确定争议的构成性质, 也时常 会就案件的实际需要用它们来诠释国家法令。在当地,这种技术被称为 “法理按 摩”. 笔者在本文欲描述当地的调解人员是如何通类理疗和法律拟制等方法来 完善这套调解技巧的. 对于他们来说, 使用这些技巧的目的是重新塑造抗争者 的政治觉悟, 将其转变为—种新父权主义形式下的公民意识. 旨在丰富法人类 学和社会抗争理论,笔者借本文展现了公民抗争不仅仅会因国家强制,或因无 所不在的社会监控和政治买断而“消声觅迹”,同时也会因地方法律从业者对行 为合法性认知基础的重新划定而退出政治舞台.


China; law; mediation; dispute; dissent; resistance; protests; rights; justice; authoritarianism; citizenship; 中国; 法律; 调解工作; 纠纷; 异议; 抗争; 抗议; 权益; 正义; 威权主义; 公民权