Fences, Neighbours and Greener Grass : The sense of border(s) in Pykeijä

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Title: Fences, Neighbours and Greener Grass : The sense of border(s) in Pykeijä
Author: Kanniainen-Anttila, Piia
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2018
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201805292117
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Sosiaali- ja kulttuuriantropologia
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Social- och kulturantropologi
Abstract: Tiivistelmä – Referat – Abstract This study aims to ”sense the sense of border(s) in Pykeijä”, a small fishery on the northeast boundary of Europe, through exploring how its inhabitants experience, narrate, confront, and sense the Norwegian-Russian and Norwegian-Finnish borders lying nearby their village. This work thus, contributes to the anthropology of borders in seeking to unravel the processual character of the idea of a border and to enhance the conceptual reflections about the symbolic functions and material impacts of borders on the everyday lives of the people living near and across them. Borders are understood here as parts of the wider historical, cultural, political, and epistemological entirety unfolding on a given border land at any given time. Thus, the development of Pykeijän sense of border(s) is followed through three distinct border logics, dominating the life on the border land in succession from the mid-19th century onwards. The Imperial border logic allowed for the current Pykeijän’s Finnish ancestors to move across the northern periphery and to settle on the cape of Pykeijä. The National border logic placed Pykeijäns under the intense Norwegianization policy, by which the forming Norwegian state strived to achieve a homogenous nation within its borders. In conclusion, Pykeijäns are also presented as people whose history is so inalienably entwined with the emergence and development of the nearby borders, that they could indicate if there was something happening with the border logics again – as is widely suggested across border studies. Methodologically this study adheres to the anthropology of borders, which emphasizes the importance of time-consuming fieldwork amongst border people and delving into their experiences and understandings. The data was gathered during three months of fieldwork in Pykeijä in summer 2017. It consists of 56 interviews with 39 Pykeijäns, as well as the understandings attained through extensive participant observation of the everyday life in Pykeijä. This data is treated essentially as narratives instead of realistic descriptions of the objective reality, to allow for an access to the informal means of understanding as well. Narrative analysis found a number of recurrent narrative clusters from the data, which were then worked into the main themes of this study – the historical changes in the meanings of borders, the materiality of borders (fences), borders as distinctions of separation (neighbours) and crossing the borders in a pursuit for a better life (greener grass). These themes are wrapped around two well-known proverbs, “Good fences make good neighbours” and “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”, which capture many of the main findings of this study. Namely, that there are two highly antithetical borders lying nearby Pykeijä - different in almost every respect, but at the same time, both constituting equally ”good” and functional borders and a good neighbourhood. What makes up a good border must be a question of relativity, then. At times a good fence is one that prevents and halts, while sometimes it is best almost unnoticed. What is shown in this study, is that the sense of border(s) in Pykeijä highlights the importance of knowing one’s neighbours and how to best distinguish oneself from them, leaving room for whatever ambiguity and borderness is required to be able to live on and as a border. Also, since both of their borders are essentially “good fences, making good neighbours”, there is a sense of trust and safety about the Pykeijän sense of their borders. Because of this, the current European discourses on borders and border-crossers as threats, have not gained ground in Pykeijä, but are forcefully overpowered by a discourse of Pykeijäns’ own immigrant past. As such, this study serves to prove, that a history of trust and amity can abide on a border land, just as well as conflict and fear do.
Subject: Kvens
Anthropology of borders
State borders
Norwegian-Russian border
Norwegian-Finnish border
Border land
Border region
Border people
Border logic
Border tourism
European borders

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