[Fwd: [Fwd: Re: [URBANTH-L]Reader on the Anthropology of Homelessness]]

tova tova.hojdestrand at socant.su.se
Thu Feb 19 10:05:21 EST 2009

My book about homeless in St. Petersburg, Russia, will be published at 
Cornell UP, but I'm not sure when (in the middle of the copyediting 
process right now). Below is some info anyway.
Best regards,
Tova Höjdestrand, Dept. of Social Antropology, University of Stockholm, 
Sweden. *

This study investigates homelessness as a sociostructural phenomenon as 
well as an individually experienced life condition, with a focus on 
homeless people in St. Petersburg in 1999 onwards. To these men and 
women, homelessness can be concluded with the Russian expression /nikomu 
ne nuzhen/, ‘needed by nobody’ – a dilemma that in their case is 
twofold. They are ‘not needed’ as citizens since a permanent address in 
Russia is the precondition for all civil rights and social benefits, and 
they are also deprived of the intimate social networks that constitute 
the ultimate social ‘safety net’ in Russia. The study investigates 
processes of social exclusion as well as the remaining ‘world of waste’ 
of things, tasks, and places wanted by nobody else that remains to these 
‘human leftovers’ to survive from. *

*The story is structured in accordance the social contexts in which “not 
neededness” was experienced most tangibly – different but intertwined 
clusters of social relationships that, from the viewpoint of the 
homeless, have their own re­gimes of exclusion and inclusion. It 
concerns the state and the formal social structure; the social aspects 
of the world of labor; the urban landscape in which physical bodies are 
situated; informal social networks from the time before homelessness; 
and the social relationships between the homeless. Throughout there runs 
the notion of leftovers and dirt, which I finally bring up in a literal 
sense by focusing on cleanliness and physical appearance; not in itself 
a “sphere” in which social interaction takes place, but a funda­mental 
threshold to those that are mentioned.
The main focus is human worth. Homeless people are subjected to a 
forceful social stigmatization, but their situation also deprives them 
of the social and material prerequisites for acting and relating to 
others in ways that they themselves consider to be ‘decent’ and ‘human’. 
This study asks how human dignity is negotiated in the absence of its 
very preconditions. Which dimensions take precedence, and which cultural 
resources are employed to restore at least a makeshift sense of, in the 
words of these homeless people, “being human?”*

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