'Diagnosing' Statelessness and Everyday State Illegibility in Northern Thailand

  • Janepicha Cheva-Isarakul Victoria University of Wellington


Statelessness in Thailand is primarily framed first and foremost as an issue of legibility to the state, with an assumption that once a stateless person is ‘properly seen’, due recognition will follow. This article builds on a growing body of literature that examines the limits of evidentiary approach and the burden of proving citizenship as experienced by many stateless persons around the world. I use the anthropological framework of ‘state illegibility’ to encapsulate the systemic violence and burden placed on stateless persons by the state’s opaqueness and inscrutable, contradictory and unpredictable bureaucratic practices. Through three ethnographic accounts in Thailand, I interrogate various forms of state illegibility and their implications. I argue that by not recognising state illegibility, statelessness risks being reduced to an individualised legal status issue, rather than being acknowledged as a symptom of systemic discrimination.

How to Cite
Cheva-Isarakul, J. (2019). ’Diagnosing’ Statelessness and Everyday State Illegibility in Northern Thailand. The Statelessness & Citizenship Review, 1(2), 214–238. Retrieved from https://statelessnessandcitizenshipreview.com/index.php/journal/article/view/53