Order and Chaos? The (Co)Relational Border in Sweden/Denmark

Authors: Lewis J Dowle*, University of St Andrews
Topics: Political Geography, Migration
Keywords: Borders, Migration, Sovereignty, (Co)Relationality, Emotion
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The events of the European migration crisis of 2015-2016 left an indelible mark on the continent, particularly evident within the Nordic countries of Sweden and Denmark. Despite the Danish Government’s adoption of increasingly austere immigration policies, the allure of ‘Swedish Exceptionalism’ and a welcoming welfare state resulted in many striving to pass through the b/ordered Nordic corridor of Denmark to eventually seek asylum in Sweden. Consequently, Sweden received the highest total number of migrants per capita across Europe during this time, resulting in the far-right ‘Swedish Democrats’ gaining increasing popularity. This paper critically analyses interviews with key stakeholders in Sweden and Denmark, exploring the construction of the migrant through three conceptual lenses of ‘threat’, ‘vulnerable’ and ‘heroic’, in shaping and steering imaginative geographies. Building on such constructions, the role of emotion is scrutinised for migrant-centred agents and their perceptions of asylum seekers, tracing the notions of hope, fear and indifference. The governance of the border is also explored, manifested in moments of order and exceptionality amidst acts of refusal and resistance. In order to address such complexities, the notion of ‘(Co)Relationality’ is developed, reflecting the reciprocal inter-relations between states and actors in the management and negotiation of the border in two ways. Horizontal (co)relationality is teased out in relation to state-to-state dynamics, particularly witnessed within the Schengen Agreement. Vertical (co)relationality is observed in state-to-individual relations, with migrants conforming to or contesting the border, raising questions of sovereignty and legitimacy at the border.

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