The Passport as a Medium of Movement

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Passports are integral for bodies to move across borders and enable decisions on who is allowed to pass through ports and who has to stay within specific jurisdictional areas. In the nineteenth century, passport documents were still mainly letters of reference, indicating the importance of the issuer. Only later, and increasingly since the First World War, they also became a means of identification. Today, identification in electronic form is key for passport development, which is why centralised and widely standardised registers such as the Finnish Population Information System have become obligatory points of passage for passport development. In this paper, based on empirical research in Finnish archives, museums and among passport developers, we identify four regimes within the history of Finnish passports that all rely on distinct modes of cooperation among applicants, issuers, registers and border officials. While in the nineteenth century passport holders had significant agency in negotiating who they were at border crossings, slowly but surely the ability for a physical body to speak for itself has diminished. Instead, over time, centralised registers were built, which need to be continually updated before any changes in passport documentation can be made. Today, the body is read and deciphered, increasingly with automated means, and the results need to match the information found in electronic form. The passport, as a medium of movement, is only temporarily stabilized for a limited period of time. It is continually modified and developed as the infrastructures for supporting and inhibiting human movement change. Different passport regimes are therefore tied to different modes of cooperation, and only their description allows us to gain an understanding of passports as a medium of movement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVarieties of Cooperation: Mutually Making the Conditions of Mutual Making
EditorsClemens Eisenmann, Kathrin Englert, Cornelius Schubert, Ehler Voss
Place of PublicationWiesbaden
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-658-39037-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-658-39036-5
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameMedien der Kooperation – Media of Cooperation
ISSN (Print)2520-8349
ISSN (Electronic)2520-8357

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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