Headless queues: Disorder and disorientation in a Zimbabwean market, 2007–2008

Jeremy L. Jones


In this paper, I analyze Zimbabweans’ efforts to make sense of ubiquitous queues for basic goods during a period of record-breaking hyperinflation. My discussion draws on a series of daily journal entries kept by a resident of the urban informal economy during 2007 and 2008. Besides opening a window onto everyday life amid economic collapse, his journals show how economic and political turmoil was registered in mundane actions (like standing in queues and buying goods on the black market) and perceived violations of established moral geographies and social processes. He framed this experience using common-sense notions of disorder, which were themselves internal to ideas and practices of ordered hierarchy. For him and for many others, then, the country’s so-called “crisis” registered less in explicit historical narrative than in perceptions of reversal and absence.


crisis, disorder, queues, everyday life, Zimbabwe

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/706803