Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 August 2015
Arguing for renewed attention to legal status as a problem of material forms and the practices around them, this paper builds, from an examination of documents in use, a theory of how competing notions of personhood shape legal status for Burmese people in Mae Sot, Thailand. It finds that there exist in Mae Sot two modes of documentary practice through which the legal status of Burmese people is apprehended. “Modes of documentary practice” refer not only to records, papers, certificates, cards, and forms, but to the patterns of filling in, wielding, explaining, and referencing a variety of print matter. The two modes identified in this paper exist in a feedback loop, with the result that Burmese people in Mae Sot are increasingly individuated as being part of a group for whom legal status is irrelevant and legal indistinctiveness is the norm.
Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 E. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. The research on which this article is based was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. I presented an early version of this paper at the Researching State and Personhood: Law and Society in Southeast Asia Conference and would like to thank the participants for their generous comments. I hope that I have honoured the spirit of those conversations in this article. Correspondence to Malavika Reddy, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 E. 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. E-mail address: email@example.com.