Certifications of citizenship in South Asia: the history, politics and materiality of identity documents
Vasudha Chhotray (University of East Anglia)
Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford)
Start time:
25 July, 2014 at 15:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

In a context where migration flows and majoritarian politics have created instability for migrants and refugees, legal claims to citizenship are important. This panel examines the politics, history and materiality of contested relationships between citizenship and state-issued identity documents.

Long abstract:

This panel examines the contested relationship between citizenship and state-issued identity documents. Experiences in the post-partition Indian sub-continent refute the conventional expectation that the 'possession of citizenship enables the acquisition of documents certifying it' (Jayal, 2013). Instead, identity papers of various types play a vital part in certifying and authenticating claims to citizenship. This is particularly important in a context where the history of state formation, continuous migration flows and the rise of right-wing majoritarian politics has created a difficult and uncertain situation for numerous migrants and refugees in states across the region. Thus legal claims to citizenship and documenting substantive membership of a political community are increasingly important. Identity documents play a dual purpose. They allow the state to see its citizens, but also allow the state to be seen by those who claim citizenship. Contained within these papers are categorisations of governmentality, alongside aspirations to and assertions of identity, ways to access state welfare and, above all, dynamic relationships of power. They serve as the basis of dyadic equations between 'official' and 'recipient', 'police' and 'entrant', 'politician' and 'vote bank', 'ousters' and 'refugees'. Identity documents thus encapsulate politics in toto and contain exciting insights into questions of state, nation, sovereignty, citizenship, community, belonging and exclusion. This panel calls for papers that address aspects relating to the politics, history and materiality of identity documents in South Asia. References: N.Jayal 2013 Citizenship and its discontents: An Indian history, Harvard University Press