Seeing like the stateless: Documentation and the mobilities of liminal citizenship in Cambodia

Laurie Parsons, Sabina Lawreniuk

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This paper explores de facto statelessness amongst ethnically Vietnamese communities in Cambodia. It demonstrates that the inaccessibility of citizenship rights is not rooted directly in what documents an individual possesses, but in collective mobilities driven by a combination or past and present and potential risks. Specifically, the reluctance of officials to replace documents for those they perceive not to be ethnically Khmer means that even ethnically Vietnamese Cambodians possessing a full set of documents and who have never crossed a border are encouraged to pursue similar mobilities to those who have none, including first generation immigrants. The higher level of environmental risk associated with these ethnically mediated, informal livelihoods further reduces these households’ stocks of physical documentation, inducing a reliance on social networks that are vulnerable to evictions and harassment. On this basis, this paper proposes the category of liminal statelessness, in order to better conceptualize a situation in which people with different legal statuses and abilities to prove them share livelihoods characterized by the non-exercise of citizenship rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPolitical Geography
Early online date6 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

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