‘Fonua’ refers to a child’s placenta, which is often buried by Pacific nation groups in order to connect that child to their place of birth. When a person leaves, or is forced to leave their place of birth, it disrupts their connection to their homeland. This contributes to the production of cultural statelessness. In the Pacific, cultural statelessness is also tied to legal and political statelessness resulting from a history of forced displacement and labour migration. Today, cultural statelessness is increasingly associated with the impacts of climate change and is increasingly experienced by communities living on low-lying atolls and low-elevation areas of islands in the Pacific Ocean. These communities are on the front line of rising sea levels and extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change. Discussions of statelessness is necessarily complex and intertwined with the governance of labour, history, citizenship and human relationships with the climate. This chapter provides a regional perspective of cultural statelessness and governance; and it explores connectivities that are particular to the Pacific region. However, this narrative also demonstrates how statelessness in the Pacific is tied to questions of global governance.
This chapter uses the example of statelessness in Kuwait to demonstrate how the legal structures that produce statelessness in a given state may depend on that state’s national ideology. It argues that law alone is incapable of (re)producing the stateless subject. In fact, knowledge systems like education and media – and the national narratives they put forward – operate to sustain systems that produce the social inequalities which underpin conditions like exclusion from citizenship. In particular, this chapter uses an analysis of a Kuwaiti educational textbook to examine mundane constructions of statelessness and exclusion. It presents how the text and images used in the textbook presume the national subject as natural. In this way, the contents of the textbook both implicitly and explicitly mark any deviation from a particular form of national subjectivity as unnatural, even as threatening to the Kuwaiti nation. The chapter uses this analysis of the school textbook as a stepping-off point to show how forms of categorical differences between citizens and non-citizens are produced and governed. This includes attributing positive characteristics to the national subject (Kuwaiti) and negative characteristics to non-citizen Others (Bidoon, Migrant). The chapter argues that these differences justify the policies and practices that render Others as inadmissible outsiders and validate the production of Bidoon statelessness. The chapter calls for researchers to challenge the intellectual foundations of the nation-state and problematise the assumptions nations have with respect to identity and belonging.
Opening a conversation about statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship
Tendayi Bloom and Lindsey N. Kingston
According to international law, a person is considered ‘stateless’ if they are not recognised as a national by any country under the operation of its law. International law, then, provides an important dimension to understanding statelessness, and it is a dimension that has often been privileged. This chapter sets out to open out the discussion of statelessness to include consideration of more dimensions and how they intersect with each other. It shows how opening out the discussion of statelessness in this way provides new avenues for examining the often messy and complex ways in which the structures that govern society move people into and out of recognition. Central to this work is identifying the ‘problem’ that is being examined. While the traditional legal focus can make it easy to frame statelessness – and so also stateless people – as a ‘problem’ to be solved, a broader governance approach challenges this. Examining the relationship between governance and statelessness indicates that situations of statelessness are often underpinned by problems rooted in the governance of citizenship: in how citizenship is allocated, experienced, and even removed. Framing statelessness through governance, then, opens the way for new directions for studying both statelessness and governance. Crucially, this also makes it possible to develop new ways of both understanding and addressing statelessness and its implications.
The impact of political discourses on the Bidoon community in Kuwait
With the creation of the modern Kuwaiti state, some people indigenous to the territory were excluded from citizenship. Those people and their descendants are still excluded from Kuwaiti citizenship and are known as ‘Bidoon’, or ‘without’. Since for the most part they do not have access to any other citizenship, the Bidoon in Kuwait are also stateless. This chapter uses an applied linguistic lens to interrogate the impact of three semiotic objects on the Bidoon community in Kuwait. It considers a speech from a government official, a non-citizen identity card, and an excerpt from an NGO report. It examines how these function to (re)produce social inequality and (re)construct the social, political, and legal exclusion of the Bidoon. The author draws on his own experience both as an applied linguist and as a member of the Bidoon community in Kuwait to provide an analysis of the role of semiotic objects of control in the governance of citizenship in Kuwait and, by extension, the governance of the population excluded from that citizenship. While the case described in this chapter is in many ways unique, the author also shows how the analysis of language and of semiotic objects are crucial to understanding statelessness and its relationship to the governance of citizenship more generally.
A comparative perspective on lived consequence of contested sovereignty
Katharine Fortin, Bart Klem, and Marika Sosnowski
Legal identity in the context of civil war comprises a highly significant but vastly understudied field of inquiry with huge humanitarian significance. This chapter studies insurgent movements that confer legal identity, including forms of citizenship. It asserts that to capture the coercive, performative, and legal aspects of this phenomenon, we need diverse conceptual lenses. The chapter combines specific elements of political science, anthropology, and international law to answer two questions. First, what are the key similarities and differences in how insurgent groups instil legal identity? Second, and based on this comparative mapping, how can legal identity in relation to rebel governance be conceptualised? The newly opening field of research reviewed in this chapter is relevant to practitioners and academics alike. The issuance of legal identity documents by armed groups raises a broad range of empirical, conceptual, normative, and humanitarian questions about sovereignty, the foundation of law, state–society relationships, and the materiality of identity documents.
In order to be seen as a full participant in the global system, a person must usually first be recognised as a citizen of a state. In a world in which not every person is a citizen of a state, and in which states exclude people from full membership, this produces contradictions. For example, it means that when a person is locally excluded, this can in fact produce exclusion from recognition as a person in the international system as a whole. This chapter shows how this exclusion can lead to both invisibility and hypervisibility with respect to global governance projects. First, those excluded from citizenship can be rendered invisible in discussions about sustainable development. That is, rather than being merely ‘left behind’, they are in fact ‘left out’ entirely. Meanwhile, the same individuals can be made hypervisible when it comes to migration governance. Policies ostensibly directed at managing migration in fact target people insofar as they do not have the documentary proof that they are eligible for inclusion in a particular state. This means that the work to address the problems associated with statelessness cannot only fall with UNHCR, the agency with a mandate in this area. This work must be done in every area in which this deference to citizenship currently either leaves stateless people out of consideration or makes them targets. Crucially, this work will require the expert participation of people with direct experience of statelessness.