“It’s To Protect the Country!”: The Everyday Performance of Border Security in Sweden



In 2015, Sweden introduced inner border control. Five years later, the ‘temporary’ controls remain. Their increasing permanence raises urgent questions about the logics that undergird the exercise of biopolitical border security and the relationship between intent and practices on the ground. Drawing on in-depth interviews with Swedish border guards and fieldwork conducted at Hyllie Station—the first station en route from Denmark—this article contributes original ethnographic research on the sparsely researched Swedish border control and the work routines of Swedish border professionals. The central theoretical contribution of the article is the consideration of how discretion and a range of mundane factors complicate the realisation of biopolitics. The article further contributes to the scholarship on everyday bordering practices with methodological reflections on the importance of studying the ‘unspectacular’ border sites and a firm reminder that not all borders have turned into semi-automated, smart data borders. Overall, the article argues that the border control at Hyllie functions according to a ‘leaky’ (Marr 2012: 84) biopolitics; not a monolithic performance of overarching state objectives, but one assembled ad hoc, constrained by resource availability and shaped by the discretion exercised by border officers.


SwedenBordersBorder securityBiopoliticsFoucault
  • Year: 2021
  • Volume: 11 Issue: 2
  • Page/Article: 156–171
  • DOI: 10.33134/njmr.422
  • Submitted on 12 Dec 2019
  • Accepted on 31 Dec 2020
  • Published on 4 Jun 2021
  • Peer Reviewed