Certifications of citizenship: the history, politics and materiality of identity documents in South Asian states and diasporas

Vasudha Chhotray, Fiona McConnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Experiences in the post-partition Indian subcontinent refute the conventional expectation that the 'possession of citizenship enables the acquisition of documents certifying it' (Jayal, 2013, 71). Instead, identity papers of various types play a vital part in certifying and authenticating claims to citizenship. This is particularly important in a context where the history of state formation, continuous migration flows and the rise of right-wing majoritarian politics has created an uncertain situation for individuals deemed to be on the ‘margins’ of the state. The papers that constitute this special issue bring together a range of disciplinary perspectives in order to investigate the history, politics and materiality of identity documents, and to dismantle citizenship as an absolute and fixed notion, seeking instead to theorise the very mutable ‘hierarchies’ and ‘degrees’ of citizenship. Collectively they offer a valuable lens onto how migrants, refugees and socio-economically marginal individuals negotiate their relationship with the state, both within South Asia and in South Asian diaspora communities. This introduction examines the wider context of the complex intersections between state-issued identity documents and the nature of citizenship and draws out cross-cutting themes across the papers in this collection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-126
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary South Asia
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • identity documents
  • citizenship
  • South Asia
  • politics
  • materiality
  • diaspora

Cite this