Abstract Despite long-standing calls to rethink the state ‘as a social relation’, reified understandings that view the state as a differentiated institutional realm separate from civil society are notably persistent in academic and political debate. By contrast, this paper focuses on the myriad ways in which everyday life is permeated by the social relations of stateness, and vice versa. The paper reviews the conceptual difficulties in defining ‘the state’ and suggests that these can be addressed in part through a focus on the mundane practices that give rise to ‘state effects’. It considers how the concept of prosaics, based on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, might provide a fruitful approach for studying such practices, their geographies and the geographies of state effects. A case study of the governance of anti-social behaviour in the UK is used to show the potential application of this approach in empirical research. The paper concludes with some reflections on possible future avenues of research.