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A captivating auto-ethnography and study of statelessness.

"In the springtime of the year that I was twenty-one, I found myself stuck at the border between two familiar countries, unable to enter either. I had never felt my statelessness so keenly.”

Japan’s 1971 termination of diplomatic ties with the Republic of China left 9,200 Chinese residents stateless. Tienshi “Lara” Chen was one of them, born to Chinese parents in Yokohama’s Chinatown. What does it mean to be stateless? What does it feel like?

To answer, Stateless presents Chen’s engaging autobiographical account of her bi-cultural upbringing and Japanese education. She reflects on her experience of statelessness eventually led her into a career spanning academia and activism, and she analyzes the contradictions inherent in the concepts of nationality, nation-state, and citizenship, in a world where individual nationality, identity, and experience are increasingly complex. She concludes that the current system of regulating individuals with citizenship is unworkable in the long run.

Blending life writing, auto-ethnography, and a study of stateless communities around Asia, this book unpacks the idea of citizenship by showing the hidden everyday narratives and lived experiences of stateless persons who have no legal ties to any nation-state. Originally published in Japanese, this adapted and updated English edition critically engages with questions of borders, mobility, belonging, and identity.


296 pages | 12 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2023

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Biography and Letters

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Lara of Chinatown
Chapter 2: Living in the Crevasse between Two Countries
Chapter 3: Assimilating into Japanese Society
Chapter 4: Venturing into the World, Learning about the World
Chapter 5: Off to Hong Kong, Off to America
Chapter 6: Learning about Statelessness
Chapter 7: Asians and Statelessness
Chapter 8: Applying for Naturalization
Chapter 9: Statelessness in other Countries
Chapter 10: Launching NGO Stateless Network
Chapter 11: Not Someone Else’s Problem
Chapter 12: State-Engendered Conceptual Boundaries: Nationality, IDs, Xenophobia and COVID-19

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