From asylum seekers to refugees, foreign students to skilled workers, official categories of migration imbue particular status. This panel invites papers that consider the ways in which anthropologists can reinforce but also interrogate and refute governmental categorisations of moving people.
Anthropologists studying the movement of people between and within nation states invariably use legalistic and governmental frameworks to categorise populations. When conceptualising and presenting our work, we differentiate between populations through official terminologies: Internally displaced peoples; refugees; asylum seekers; economic migrants; foreign students; skilled workers; undocumented peoples; international businessmen; third country nationals; naturalized citizens. Only some labels are stamped on official papers. All imbue particular status. Populations' right and ability to traverse intra-national spaces and international borders are central to our understanding of mobility at both a governmental and personal level. These categorisations mark the central site where wider regimes of mobility connect with the embodied experience of moving. Holding, or not holding certain papers--passports, visas, titles, finical documents--can profoundly shape subjective experiences of moving; as well as affecting the right to remain. Moreover, being known and named as a particular type of migrant alters perceptions and presentation of selves. Anthropologists are in a position to cement, contest and complicate official categories of migration. Yet we often adopt legally prescribed definitions without questioning adequately their foundation. This panel is designed to explore the consequences of that choice, and will interrogate the methodological, theoretical and political uses and/or limitations of categorizing moving people.