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Documented lives: fear and the uncertainties of law during the second Palestinian intifada

Authors


Adam Ferguson Building, George Square, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9LL, UK. toby.kelly@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

This article examines the role of identity documents in producing the particular texture of relationships between persons and states in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For many people in the region the forms of legal identification they hold are central to their life chances. Considerable efforts are therefore made in trying to accumulate and manipulate documents for political and economic advantage. However, the implications of holding identity documents are always partial and unstable. This article argues that identity documents penetrate into the lives of those who hold them, not as reifying abstractions, but as an unpredictable and unstable technique of governance, producing fear and uncertainty for all those subject to their use. Although the production of identity documents creates a separation between the legal and the physical person, these two aspects of personhood are recombined as, through their anxieties, people come to embody the indeterminacies of the documents that they hold. In this way documents produce legibility and illegibility, stability and instability, coherence and incoherence.

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