Governing through paperwork

Examining the regulatory effects of documentary practices in a refugee settlement

in Journal of Legal Anthropology

Documents play an important role in the lives of refugees. However, little is known about the extent to which documents regulate the everyday lives of refugees and the anxieties of obtaining relevant paperwork for refugees seeking resettlement in the Global North. Although their lives are regulated by paperwork, refugees also use documents strategically to legitimise various claims and entitlements. This article shows how refugees interface with the administrative processes that seek to regulate their stay. Therefore, documentary practices become important tools through which processes and objectives of migration governance can be examined. This article seeks to contribute further insights on how the deployment of documents entrenches discourses of vulnerability, the role that paper regimes play in (re)producing processes of exclusion through administrative processes in humanitarian aid contexts and the revelations of documentary practices or paper regimes about those who govern and those who are governed by these practices.

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