Amanda R. Cheong
Ph.D., Sociology & Social Policy, Princeton University, 2019
M.A., Sociology & Social Policy, Princeton University, 2016
B.A. (Hons), Sociology, University of British Columbia, 2012
I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. I study how legal status and documentation shape people’s lives, working primarily with stateless, undocumented, and refugee communities in Southeast Asia and North America. My mission as an academic is motivated by my own family’s experiences of statelessness and exclusion in their birthplace of Brunei.
The Vital Costs & Consequences of the Legal Identity Crisis
An estimated 1 in 4 children under the age of 5 worldwide have not been registered at birth. Why, in our modern world, do so many people continue to fall through the administrative cracks? Omitted Lives offers a new thesis for unraveling the paradox of the civil registration gap. Set in the context of Malaysia, the book is an ethnography of the lives of marginalized families who have gone unaccounted for at the most basic level: the recording of their vital events. By chronicling families’ circuitous and risky journeys to obtain basic recognition, and the papers to prove it, I offer a humanizing account of vital statistics and their sociopolitical—and even mortal—significance. I found that who gets counted, and how, are inherently political choices rather than technical imperatives, and that these choices can be made in ways that omit unwanted populations from the nation by depriving them of the documentary means to prove their legal personhood. Popular fears about the demographic threats posed by migrants have transformed understandings about the recording of vital events from administrative procedures to declarations about the ethnoracial and moral boundaries of national identity and belonging.
My other work is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on a range of methods, including ethnography, survey data analysis, archival research, and community action partnerships. Recent projects explore:
- The use of documentation in the erasure and expulsion of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar (forthcoming in Social Problems);
- Why people continue to go unregistered in the modern world (forthcoming in Sociological Theory);
- Stateless children’s encounters with immigration detention and deportation (published in positions: asia critique);
- The interrelated barriers to birth registration and maternal healthcare among stateless and undocumented families (published in Genus: Journal of Population Sciences);
- The impacts of previous undocumented experience on the naturalization propensities of immigrants in the United States (published in the International Migration Review);
- The impacts of migration and undocumented experience on the health of Mexican immigrants to the United States (published in the International Migration Review);
- How access to driver’s licenses matter for undocumented immigrants, in collaboration with the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (funded by ASA’s Community Action Research Initiative Award, and published in Contexts).
I am a co-investigator on 2 new SSHRC Insight Grant-funded projects:
- “Sons and Daughters of the Soil: The Making of Citizens and Stateless Persons in Post-Colonial Malaysia.” $283,313. With Jamie Liew (PI).
- “Mapping the Discursive and Institutional Landscape of ‘Birth Tourism’ and its Perceived Attack on Canadian Birthright Citizenship.” $223,328. With Megan Gaucher (PI), Yin-Yuan Chen, and Jamie Liew.
Cheong, Amanda R. (2022). “Deportable to Nowhere: Stateless Children & Challenges to State Logics of Immigration Control.” positions: asia critique 30(2): 245-275: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-9573331
Cheong, Amanda R. & the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund. (2021). “How Driver’s Licenses Matter for Undocumented Immigrants.” Contexts 22-27: https://doi.org/10.1177/15365042211035330
Cheong, Amanda R. & Baltazar, Mary Anne K. (2021). “Too Precarious to Walk: A ‘Three Delays’ Framework for Modeling Barriers to Maternal Healthcare and Birth Registration Among Stateless Persons and Irregular Migrants in Malaysia.” Genus: Journal of Population Sciences 77: https://doi.org/10.1186/s41118-021-00129-3 [Open Access]
Cheong, Amanda R. (2021). “Legal Histories as Determinants of Incorporation: Previous Undocumented Experience and Naturalization Propensities Among Immigrants in the United States.” International Migration Review 55(2): 482-513. https://doi.org/10.1177/0197918320934714
Cheong, Amanda R. & Massey, Douglas S. (2019). “Undocumented and Unwell: Legal Status and Health Among Mexican Migrants.” International Migration Review 53(2): 571-601. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6939891/ [Open Access]
Cheong, Amanda R. (2018). “Immigration and Shifting Conceptions of Citizenship: The Case of Stateless Chinese-Bruneians in Canada.” In New Chinese Migrations: Mobility, Home, Inspirations. Eds. Yuk Wah Chan & Sin Yee Koh. New York: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/New-Chinese-Migrations-Mobility-Home-and-Inspirations/Chan-Koh/p/book/9780367594077
My work has received awards such as the American Sociological Association Theory Section Shils-Coleman Graduate Student Paper Prize, and the United Nations Refugee Agency Award for Statelessness Research.
I have received competitive external fellowships and grants from bodies such as: American Sociological Association, the American Council of Learned Societies, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Southeast Asia Research Group.
Executive committee member, UBC Centre for Migration Studies.
Steering committee member, UBC Centre for Asian Canadian Research and Engagement.
Faculty affiliate, UBC Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies.