The Queue

Distributed Legality, Bureaucratic Time and Waiting-Work in Migrant Moscow



The contemporary Russian migration regime is grounded in an artificial shortage of legal labour. For migrant workers from ‘visa-free’ states of the former Soviet Union, becoming and remaining documented requires mastering the queue as a distinct social and institutional form. Exploring the everyday tactics of ‘occupying the queue’ among migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan, this paper brings an existentially sensitive perspective on migration into conversation with an anthropology of legal time, attentive to the ways in which being ‘stuck in motion’ emerges through the conjunction of competing tempi of work, life, and legalisation. A focus on the queue as social form draws attention to the embodied labour of synchronisation: the physical and social effort entailed in integrating the disjunctive temporal regimes of paid work and documentary verification in contexs of legal precarity. In so doing, the article critically interrogates assumptions of ‘empty time’ in recent anthropological work on waiting.

How to Cite

Reeves, M. (2020). The Queue: Distributed Legality, Bureaucratic Time and Waiting-Work in Migrant Moscow. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 44(2), 20–39.