Performing Development in Street Markets: Hegemony, Governmentality, and the Qat Industry of Sana’a, Yemen



Abstract:  A legal drug commonly consumed in Yemen, qat is often a flashpoint over development and business practice. Qat markets are sites for exploring the interaction between cultural economic practices surrounding qat production, urban politics, and broader questions of development in Yemen. Given the weakness of the Yemeni state relative to other institutions, this context is particularly helpful in theorizing localized forms of governance. Using interviews with various members of the qat industry in Sana’a, Yemen's largest city, this paper discusses the spatial and discursive strategies of qat vendors as they seek to produce and regulate their economic spaces. Central to this discussion is an exploration of Laclau's framework of hegemony and Foucault's ideas of governmentality, in the context of struggles for control over economic space playing out on the streets of Sana’a.