Paper Trails

Migrants, Documents, and Legal Insecurity

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: Published: August 2020

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Sociology > Migration Studies

Across the globe, states have long aimed to control the movement of people, identify their citizens, and restrict noncitizens' rights through official identification documents. Although states are now less likely to grant permanent legal status, they are increasingly issuing new temporary and provisional legal statuses to migrants. Meanwhile, the need for migrants to apply for frequent renewals subjects them to more intensive state surveillance. The contributors to Paper Trails examine how these new developments change migrants' relationship to state, local, and foreign bureaucracies. The contributors analyze, among other toics, immigration policies in the United Kingdom, the issuing of driver's licenses in Arizona and New Mexico, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and community know-your-rights campaigns. By demonstrating how migrants are inscribed into official bureaucratic systems through the issuance of identification documents, the contributors open up new ways to understand how states exert their power and how migrants must navigate new systems of governance.

Contributors. Bridget Anderson, Deborah A. Boehm, Susan Bibler Coutin, Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, Sarah B. Horton, Josiah Heyman, Cecilia Menjívar, Juan Thomas Ordóñez, Doris Marie Provine, Nandita Sharma, Monica Varsanyi


“The rich collection of case studies in Paper Trails reminds us that states have increasingly refined their surveillance techniques. A must-read for anyone interested in how the issuing of the identifications and documents that pervade our everyday lives give states power over the populations—both citizens and immigrants—they govern.” — Leo R. Chavez, author of The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation

“Offering a unique way to think about the materiality of immigrant life and the ways that papers shape migrants' identities, experiences, rights, and sense of belonging, this volume tells a compelling story about the need to center documents in the study of international migration.” — Leisy J. Abrego, coeditor of We Are Not Dreamers: Undocumented Scholars Theorize Undocumented Life in the United States

“Documents, or ‘papers,’ both reflect and help construct a global reality of heightened border policing and profound socioeconomic inequality. By powerfully illuminating the work that documents do in producing the state and people of unequal status, and the tactics people employ to contest citizenship-related forms of exclusion, Paper Trails provides valuable tools for those engaged in the struggle to realize a more just world.” — Joseph Nevins, author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sarah B. Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver, and author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers.

Josiah Heyman is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas--El Paso, and coeditor of The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region: Cultural Dynamics and Historical Interactions.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. Paper Trails: Migrants, Bureaucratic Inscription, and Legal Recognition / Sarah B. Horton  1
Part I. Foundations: Controlling Space and Time  27
1. The "People Out of Place": State Limits on Free Mobility and the Making of Im(migrants) / Nandita Sharma  31
2. And About Time Too . . .: Migration, Documentation, and Temporalities / Bridget Anderson  53
3. Documenting Membership: The Divergent Politics of Migrant Driver's Licenses in New Mexico and Arizona / Doris Marie Provine and Monica W. Varsanyi  74
Part II. Documents as Security, Documents as Visibility  103
4. Documented as Unauthorized / Deborah A. Boehm  109
5. Opportunities and Double Binds: Legal Craft in an Era of Uncertainty / Susan Bibler Coutin  130
6. Document Overseers, Enhanced Enforcement, and Racialized Local Contexts: Experiences of Latino Immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona / Cecilia Menjívar  153
Part III. Resistance and Refusals  179
7. Knowing Your Rights in Trump's America: Paper Trails of Community Empowerment / Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz  185
8. Strategies of Documentation among Kichwa Transnational Migrants / Juan Thomas Ordóñez  208
Conclusion: Documents as Power / Josiah Heyman  229
Contributors  249
Index  253
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0845-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0794-4