Bordering the borderlands : The Sweden-Finland border during the Covid-pandemic

University essay from Umeå universitet/Sociologiska institutionen

Abstract: The current study was conducted with the purpose of investigating what influence a pandemic may have on the everyday lives and border perceptions of people living on a border, and also how such a change might influence the social construction of that border. To fulfill this purpose, focus was set on the border between northern Sweden and Finland during the border-defining Covid-19 pandemic. Six border landers and cross-border commuters from both sides of the Sweden-Finland border were therefore interviewed during the tail-end of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sweden. This collected material was subject to thematic analysis and organized temporally to depict how behavior and border perceptions changed depending on what stage of the pandemic was active: pre-covid, mid-covid, or post-covid. While the pre-covid border was discussed positively, characterized as imperceivable, and as enabling of cross-border practices, things changed when the border manifested, and mid-covid times started. During this time, the border instead became a source for distinction, resulting in prejudices, and behavior became more restricted. During post-covid, the informants reacted positively to the disappearance of the border, and the return to the normal, although it was not quite the same normal as before. The main finding of the study was that the impercievability and manifestation of the border were two counteracting states which influenced its assigned meaning. The importance of this study for the field of sociology comes from having investigated how pandemics and shutting down a border can disrupt regular social life and cross-border practices, thereby influencing the socially constructed meaning of that same border.

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