Life after the Soviet Gulag and Chinese Laogai: Mechanisms of Reentry into Society


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation Travel Grants to China




This comparative project aims to reconstruct the experiences of the so-called “returnees” in reentering society, after they were released from the Gulag and Laogai labor camps in the post-Stalin Soviet Union and post-Mao China. For many of them the vicissitudes of their comeback were no less challenging than their survival behind the bars. The diverse paths of reentry help demonstrate the variety of idiosyncrasies, the dimensions of human agency, the strategies of everyday politics as employed by the ex-prisoners, and the governmentality – ways in which different state agents involved in the reentry interacted with former convicts, as well as the abilities and limitations of state power in governing, controlling, or assisting people outside the prison walls.