States of Anticipation: The Promise and Peril of Official Recognition

AAA 2017, Washington D.C., November 29-December 3

Organizers: Vijayanka Nair (NYU) and Irina Levin (NYU)
This panel examines the lifeworlds of individuals waiting for tokens of state recognition—whether they be visas, work permits, passports, national IDs, or driver’s licenses. We ask: what are the hopes, anxieties, and rituals that shape these intervals of anticipation and the receipts, denials, or deferrals that follow? We invite papers that focus on the lives of people awaiting their new certifications of state recognition, adjusting to their recently formalized statuses, or making sense of their failure to be included. We probe how individuals imagine their positions within evolving regimes of recognition, and how they come to learn or understand what entitlements and restrictions new forms of acknowledgment engender. Scholars argue that identification and recognition are two sides of the same coin. They also emphasize that identification is often inseparable from questions of identity and morality. We therefore examine what movement between statuses comes to mean in an individual’s moral and material universe. Concomitantly, we interrogate the experience of being restricted to a lesser or informal status, or perhaps to no status at all. Lastly, we are interested in how people interact with the materiality or immateriality of tokens of recognition. What happens to older forms of identification when people acquire new ones? Do material documents continue to retain—or even gain—value in a digitalizing world? How do people with multiple passports or state IDs value or weigh IDs against each other? We are particularly keen on examining the lives of people caught between multiple state identification systems, both in intra- and inter-national contexts. Scholars of citizenship have highlighted the constitutive role identification papers can play in belonging, the impact of states’ withholding such recognition, and the growth of markets in “fake” documents. We build on these foundations to further interrogate how tokens of recognition shape individual lives: the weariness and jubilation that come with receiving recognition, the ways in which people assess their places in new communities, the manners in which the state comes to circumscribe everyday life.

Please send an abstract (250 words or less) by April 3:

Irina Levin,

Vijayanka Nair,