Whose identity [document] is it? documentation and the negotiation of meaning among Zimbabwean migrants in Johannesburg

Takabvirwa, Kathryn
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
ABSTRACT From the moment a person enters a state, whether by birth or migration, the individual-state interaction is often mediated by some form of (supposedly) official state-issued document. This is particularly the case in cross-border migration. Documentation is often viewed as an instrument of the state, with passports containing declarations within them stipulating to them being “the property” of the government issuing them. Yet, documentation is borne by individuals whose use of it in the context of migration indicates incongruence between their view of documentation and that of the state. This research examines migrants‟ perceptions of documentation, what informs those views, and the ways in which those perceptions inform migrants‟ views of and interaction with the nation-state, citizenship, identity and state control. It explores contestation over the ownership of and rights over documents. In an effort to explore the levels of connection and disconnection, the study contrasts migrants‟ perceptions against those of the state. It moves away from the functionalist, policy-directed approach to the study of documentation that often characterises migration literature. It is informed by post-positivist, relativist commitments to examining the perspectives of individuals while adopting the constructivist recognition that meaning is created, as informed by history, context and experience. Focusing on Zimbabwean migrants resident in Johannesburg, this study draws on information gathered through in-depth interviews and group discussions, examined through discourse analysis and thematic content analysis.
belonging, citizenship, control, documentation, identification, identity, individual, meaning, membership, migrant, nation-state, nationalism, resistance