Christoph Sperfeldt
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Statelessness and governance at the periphery
‘Nomadic’ populations and the modern state in Thailand, Côte d’Ivoire, and Lebanon
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People identified as members of ‘nomadic’ groups, irrespective of whether they in fact undertake a mobile lifestyle, are frequently cited among the groups that may be stateless or at risk of statelessness. The figure of the ‘nomad’ – which is typified by a mobile and self-reliant lifestyle (often across multiple borders), a lack of permanent residence, communal land use, and traditions of self-government – may seem challenging to the idea of the modern nation-state with its settled population, private land ownership, and centralised government structures within fixed boundaries. This chapter brings the findings of a research project conducted at the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness into conversation with the themes of the book. This project involved field research in three case studies – among marine Moken populations in Thailand and Myanmar, Fulbe pastoralists in Côte d’Ivoire, and Bedouin populations in Lebanon. The chapter examines how these nomadic or formerly mobile populations are considered in states’ governance and legal identity regimes. In particular, it provides a critical discussion of the practices relating to citizenship and legal identity that states employ and the difficulties they encounter in including populations with current or former mobile lifestyles. The chapter concludes with some observations about the importance of acknowledging and considering in policies and decision-making the agency and choices of these communities under rapidly changing ecological, economic, and socio-political conditions.

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