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Corporations and States: A Customer-Service Corporation inside the Punjab State Police

By Matthew S. Hull

Cite As:
Hull, Matthew. 2022. “Corporations and States: A Customer-Service Corporation inside the Punjab State Police.” Cultural Anthropology 37, no. 4: 764–792.


In 2013, the Indian state of Punjab contracted with a corporation to operate a new police phone helpline. The corporation not only takes complaints but also monitors, directs, and reports police responses to them and conducts satisfaction surveys. This essay explores the tensions and effects of using American techniques of corporate customer service to promote procedural law enforcement within police practices in India. It examines the ideological, procedural, communicational, and technological practices through which police procedure is combined with corporate customer service. Moving beyond a concern with privatization and the distinction between state and non-state, the article uses the metaphor of the human microbiome to reconceptualize how to understand the involvement of outside actors within state operations.


corporation; state; police; communication; software; bureaucracy; India