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Re-purposing Fika: Rest, Recreation or Regulation in the Neoliberalised Swedish University?

Journal article
Authors Louise Morley
Petra Angervall
Caroline Berggren
Susanne Dodillet
Published in European Journal of Higher Education
Volume 8
Issue 4
Pages 400-414
ISSN 2156-8235
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 400-414
Language en
Keywords Sweden, fika, neoliberalism, university, affect
Subject categories Educational Sciences, Sociology


Fika is the Swedish practice of having coffee twice a day in homes and workplaces, requiring material, social and temporal investments. This paper asks what purpose fika serves in neoliberalised employment regimes where productivity is audited in accelerated and accountable organisational cultures. Our thirteen interviews with staff in a Faculty of Education in a large research-intensive Swedish university suggested that there are multiple interpretations of fika. These include a commitment to workers' rights, investment in employee well-being, work/life balance and team-building. However, some respondents believed that fika has been re-purposed and incorporated in neoliberal surveillance and normalisation technologies in which one's corporate loyalty and interpersonal skills were made visible for assessment. We noted an affective and gendered economy with fika eliciting feelings of pleasure in the social and recreational aspects, but guilt, shame and anger at what was perceived as coercion to perform a particular type of sociable subjectivity.

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