Amanda Cheong

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology


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.


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)


Book Project:

Omitted Lives:
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.

Other Research: 

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:

  1. Stateless children’s encounters with immigration detention and deportation (published in positions: asia critique);
  2. The interrelated barriers to birth registration and maternal healthcare among stateless and undocumented families (published in Genus: Journal of Population Sciences);
  3. The use of documentation in the erasure, and expulsion of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar (under review);
  4. The impacts of previous undocumented experience on the naturalization propensities of immigrants in the United States (published in the International Migration Review);
  5. The impacts of migration and undocumented experience on the health of Mexican immigrants to the United States (published in the International Migration Review);
  6. 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