Negotiating national borders in transnational families:
A case study of two Danish-Swedish families in the ‘borderless’ Oresund region
Along with the growth of sub-state entities in the European Union, cross-border regions have captured the attention and imagination of policy makers and researchers. Bridging Sweden and Denmark, two of the most developed countries in Europe, the Oresund region has been considered a model of EU regional integration (Lofgren 2010). Various researches have been conducted to find out the pros and cons of the Oresund link from political, economic, and cultural perspectives.
This paper studies the everyday life of two Danish-Swedish families in both sides of the Oresund region, seeking to contribute to the growing but sometimes forgotten body of literature on the anthropology of borders. The study at such a micro level is helpful in the sense that it can elaborate “the sense of difference and distinctiveness”, in other words, the border in the minds of people (Donnan and Wilson 1999), complementing the macro-level approach of political scientists, social scientists, and economists.
The paper, based on some theoretical concepts like border, identity, nationalism and transnationalism, the historical background of the Oresund region, two in-depth interviews and some participant observation, seeks to find out how national borders are negotiated in transnational families’ everyday practices and what factors determine the types and permeability of such borders. It argues that between the two countries with similar cultures and development levels, the sense of national or bi-national identities can be manifested and negotiated in a practical or pragmatic, thus unconscious, way. It then proposes the wider use of the concept “banal transnationalism” as a good complement to “banal nationalism”, first coined by Michael Billigand, “banal Europeanism” by Laura Cram in European studies.