Governing by paper: mediating textual border and negotiating mobility in Thailand

Seminar no. 1205
1 March 2023 Time 12.30 – 13.30 hrs.

Speaker: รศ.ดร. ปิ่นแก้ว เหลืองอร่ามศรี (Associate Professor Dr. Pinkaew Laungaramsri)

The relationship between border and bureaucracy offers fertile ground to study how the border continues to affect the lives and movement of people. As epistemological and material sites, borders and their document networks work to produce categories of people. The production of border documents also creates various forms of mediator that traverse in and outside the state arena. Such fluidity of the documentary traffic thus generates a subversive economy that facilitates an unauthorized mobility, which undermines the efficiency of the state document itself. While the anthropology of border attempts to redefine the border’s spatio-temporality through examining border practices, state and border crossing populations remain the key actors. This article attempts to move away from the duality of the relationship between state and border dweller by investigating the politics of border mediation. It argues that bureaucratic ID documentation in Thailand has been a significant tool that not only defines the migrants, but also shapes the way in which the border is (re)made. While the aim of the bureaucratic document is to serve the state’s objective of border control, the circulation of documents has created extra-state industries, such as extortion, bribery and brokerage, that allow the fluid labourscape to flourish.