Paper and Electronic Records in Indian Police Procedure and Corporate Customer Service

Call center


An original provision of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure, maintained since 1861, requires that oral testimony of complainants must be “reduced to writing” by an authorized official. This requirement has been strained by the integration of corporate call center customer service practices into the Indian police procedures. Audio recordings and database text records of complaints have only some of the features of writing and are not produced by a government official. Nevertheless, the composite records generated by the call takers through corporate customer service software form the basis of quasi-official police proceedings. The legal tension between these forms of human and technological mediation is at the same time a tension between conceptualizations of a political subject, as requiring representation by another person or able to present him or herself.


Matthew Hull is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the nexus of representation, technology, and institutions.  His book, Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan (University of California Press, 2012), examines governance as a semiotic and material practice through an account of the role of writing and written artifacts in the operations of city government in Islamabad. He has also worked on the deployment of American technologies of democracy in urban India from the late 1950s and early 1960s. He is currently working the modern corporation as a governance institution police communication systems in India.