Food shortage and its discontents during the Shanghai lockdown

Minhua Ling


During the Shanghai lockdown in the spring of 2022, over twenty-five million residents had difficulty securing staple food and fresh groceries for days and even weeks. This article draws on both in-depth interviews and social media content to explore how Shanghai residents coped with food shortages resulting from the hasty implementation of draconian zero-COVID policies through bottom-up initiatives and how they made sense of such experiences of deprivation. It calls attention to the creative ways they used food-centered images, stories, and other rhetorical devices on social media in efforts to record and share everyday suffering under tightened censorship. Such articulations of anxiety, anger, sarcasm, and despair amplify the discontent that challenged the biolegitimacy of zero-COVID policies and resist the affect sovereignty imposed by the authoritarian party-state.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/727759