Publication details

The spectre of the queue : resignifying the past in the post-communist Czech Republic



Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source American Journal of Cultural Sociology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords Queue; Post-communism; Interaction; Memory; Privatism
Description Long queues for basic goods, including food, had to be endured routinely on the streets of Czech cities from the 1950s until the late 1980s as a result of the constant shortages of consumer goods in the centrally planned economy. After the fall of the communist regime, queues disappeared from the street, but they started a new, second, life in the public discourse. Today, more than 25 years after the fall of the regime, the images of the "communist queue" are still vivid and reproduced in jokes, metaphors, and media images. The paper shows how the queue, disembodied from the everyday interaction, became a morally and emotionally charged signifier. Remembered as unjust, humiliating, and absurd, the "communist queue" stands in opposition to theoretical models of queues and serves as a synecdoche for the memory of the communist past as a whole. In the post-communist public discourse, the queue became a powerful, polluted symbol used both to endorse and to criticise free market capitalism. This paper suggests that its prevalence is a cultural driving force behind post-communist privatism.