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The God School: Informal Christian Education and Emerging Aspirations Among De Facto Stateless Children Living in Cambodia

Abstract

Statelessness research to date has mainly focused on legal analyses and the plight of adults who are seen to have little ‘navigational capacity’. Children are often regarded simply as those caught up in the complicated lives of their parents or guardians. Very rarely are the voices of stateless children heard, still less are their aspirations documented. This paper foregrounds children’s experiences and argues that despite appearing to be ‘stuck’ in a position of liminality, de facto stateless children have much to teach us about the differing roads to aspiration. An analysis of the everyday lived realities of Cambodia’s stateless children reveals how religious identity, specifically through Christian conversion, becomes central to how their aspirations are socially produced, and how these aspirations come to assist them in navigating ethnic and institutional exclusion.

Résumé

À ce jour, la recherche sur l’apatridie s’est essentiellement concentrée sur les analyses juridiques et sur la situation difficile des adultes qui sont considérés comme ayant une faible « capacité à aspirer » . Les enfants sont souvent simplement considérés comme ceux qui sont pris dans la vie compliquée de leurs parents ou tuteurs. Les voix des enfants apatrides sont très rarement entendues, et leurs aspirations sont encore moins documentées. Cet article met en avant les expériences des enfants et soutient que, même s’ils semblent être « coincés » dans une position de liminarité, les enfants apatrides ont de facto beaucoup à nous apprendre sur les différents chemins menant à l’aspiration. Une analyse des réalités quotidiennes des enfants apatrides du Cambodge révèle comment l’identité religieuse, en particulier à travers la conversion chrétienne, devient centrale dans la façon dont leurs aspirations sont produites socialement, et comment ces aspirations finissent par les aider à garder le cap dans un contexte d’exclusion ethnique et institutionnelle.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For a detailed discussion on the legal limbo of the ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia see Nguyen and Sperfeldt (2012) and Ang and Chan (2014).

  2. 2.

    The Vietnamese when they refer to God or some force much bigger and more powerful than they are, will use “Trời Phật” (literally, “sky Buddha”). Yet, when referring to the Christian God the word “Chúa” or “Chúa Jesus” is used. In the text I use Buddha, God and Jesus when each term is used.

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Rumsby, C. The God School: Informal Christian Education and Emerging Aspirations Among De Facto Stateless Children Living in Cambodia. Eur J Dev Res 33, 89–108 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-020-00303-x

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Keywords

  • Cambodia
  • Aspirations
  • Children
  • Statelessness
  • Education
  • Christianity