This article explores issues involved with researching statelessness ‘on the ground’ during ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia with the children of migrants and refugees. It argues that many of these children, whose parents or grandparents originate from Indonesia or the Philippines, lack an ‘effective nationality’. However, rather than statelessness or illegality per se, what dominates these children’s lives is their perpetual ‘foreignness’. Even when children might be able to have their citizenship recognised by a parental country of origin, families often prefer to remain undocumented, and to wait (perhaps indefinitely) for the Malaysian citizenship they perceive as rightfully theirs.
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