“Sorry everything’s in bags”: The accountability of selling bread at a market during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ann Weatherall, Emma Tennent, Fiona Grattan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Downloads (Pure)


Societies are undergoing enormous upheavals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. High levels of psychological distress are widespread, yet little is known about the exact impacts at the micro-level of everyday life. The present study examines the ordinary activity of buying bread to understand changes occurring early in the crisis. A dataset of over 50 social interactions at a community market stall were video-recorded, transcribed and examined in detail using multi-modal conversation analysis. With COVID-19 came an orientation to a heightened risk of disease transmission when selling food. The bread was placed in bags, a difference which was justified as a preventative measure and morally normalised by invoking a common-sense prohibition of touching produce. Having the bread out of immediate sight was a practical challenge that occasioned the expansion of turns and sequences to look for and/or confirm what was for sale, highlighting a normative organisation between seeing and buying. The analysis shows how a preventative measure related to the pandemic was adjusted to interactionally. More broadly, this research reveals the small changes to daily life that likely contribute to the overall negative impacts on health and well-being that have been reported.

© 2021, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this