The Dilemma of Thought Reform: Beijing Reformatories and the Origins of Reeducation through Labor

Aminda M. Smith, ‘The Dilemma of Thought Reform: Beijing Reformatories and the Origins of Reeducation through Labor, 1949–1957’, Modern China 39(2) (2013): 203–234. 
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Abstract
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This article explores the efforts of the early People’s Republic of China (PRC) to intern and reform beggars, prostitutes, and other socially marginalized individuals as important precursors to the post-1957 system of Reeducation through Labor. It links a case study of local practice in Beijing to central government discussions about policy formulation to trace a series of co-constituted changes in the practical methods associated with thought reform as well as in the way PRC reeducators perceived the nature of their targets. It argues that Reeducation through Labor, as moniker and practice, was forged through the many contradictions between real idealism and practical reality that were discussed, debated, but never entirely resolved by the earliest PRC reeducators.

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