What does it mean for Kyrgyzstani migrant workers in contemporary Russia to be legally legible to the state when informal agencies market fictive residency documents and “clean fake” work permits? Examining the uncertainty around being authentically documented provides insight into a mode of governance in urban Russia that thrives less on rendering subjects legible than on working the space of ambiguity between life and law. This dynamic has significant social consequences for the way certain bodies come to be scrutinized as particularly untrustworthy, particularly liable to fakery, and, thus, particularly legitimate targets for document checks, fines, and threats of deportation. The ambiguity with which migrants are forced to live highlights the need to explore how documentary regimes, structures of feeling, and racializing practices coincide.
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