This panel engages with the production, uses and meaning of identity documents for people on the move, including refugees and migrants. It explores the everyday practice of how identity documents are produced and distributed; and interrogates the meaning ascribed to and uses of identity documents.
Identity documents hold legal significance in attesting to the 'identity' of an individual. The production, uses and meaning of identity documents is however far more complex and contested than a legalistic interpretation suggests. This is especially the case for those who move across boundaries and borders - often disrupting and challenging norms of belonging. Identity documents come about through a broad range of enumerative and bureaucratic activities, including visa applications, registration and headcounts in refugee camps. They can be produced in divergent ways - from hand-written registries to electronic, biometric databases. They have different issuing authorities, from diverse state departments and agencies to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). They also attest to different types of identities and corresponding rights, including asylum-seeker or economic migrant. We invite papers that explore the everyday practices of state and non-state bureaucracies in the production and distribution of identity documents, including investigating the perspective of bureaucrats who carry it out and the socio-technical infrastructures they use. We are also interested in interrogating the meaning ascribed to and uses of identity documents, and the diverse impacts on individuals and across societies. Moreover, we seek to explore how identity documents shape understandings of identities and relationships, including experiences of belonging and exclusion. Finally, we invite papers exploring the limits of what identity documents can mean. For example, for migrants who choose to remain undocumented and in situations when documents do not offer the intended or desired legal recognition.