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Chapter 8 examines protracted statelessness among highlanders in northern Thailand, a context of ostensibly stable citizenship law and rationalized bureaucracy. By coupling intensive ethnographic research with extensive survey data, Amanda Flaim locates the reproduction of statelessness in the very bureaucratic operations that have been mobilized by the state to prevent it. She demonstrates that citizenship adjudication procedures rely on a fiction of the territorialized state that has never been achieved in the highlands, yet which serves as the standard of “truth” against which stateless highlanders must prove their claims to belong. As such, highlanders are variously called upon to mobilize diverse forms of unstable evidence—from documents to DNA—to reconcile their histories to that of the state. To this end, citizenship conferral is revealed as an act of belief, not (only) in a claim to citizenship but in the state’s fiction of a bounded and timeless claim to sovereignty.

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