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Postcards from the city of the homeless subjects

Presentation of my research on homelessness at Macquarie University, Department of Geography.

Michele Lancione

on 5 November 2014

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Transcript of Postcards from the city of the homeless subjects

Black market activities
Re-imagining the encounter
- Avoid pre-assumed categories
- Highlight the role of the urban in the life of homeless people
- Challenge normative policies on homelessness
Michele Lancione
Post-Doc Fellow
University of Technology of Sydney
Devices’ agencies
Ticket to access public baths
Valerio, moving in the city
“Techno-logical machines of information and communication operate at the heart of human subjectivity, not only within its memory and intelligence, but within its sensibility, affects and unconscious fantasms” (Guattari, 1995)
The subject is not a “disengaged first-person-singular self calls on each of us to become a responsible thinking mind, self-reliant for her or his judgements on life, the universe and everything”
(Pile and Thrift, 1995)
from the city of the homeless subjects
... small
42 Interviews with wider group of homeless people
Turin, Italy
10 Months ethnography
Volunteering in FBO - Observation in public services
60 longitudinal interviews with 10 hom. people (male, italians)
Daily journeys with hom. people
16 interviews with Instutions
Re-writing the discourse
We need something able to disperse homeless people’s identities within the human and more-than-human topologies of the city
Punitive framework
Public policies as a repressive ways of containing, harassing and controlling homeless people’s spaces, lives and movements.
Davis, 1992; Mitchell, (1997); Smith (1996); Walby and Lippert (2011)
Performative approach
(Cloke et al., 2008; DeVerteuil, 2006; DeVerteuil, et al., 2009; Johnsen, et al., 2005)
Assemblages, contexts, codes
More-than-human subjects
- How homeless people subjectivity is entangled with (1) Urban assemblages; (2) Normative contexts of care
- (3) How looking within these entanglements can reveal unexpected capabilities from these people
Re-framing the service
"Going to work"
Urban frames
"Via della Casa Comunale, 1"
Normative bureaucracy
"Loving the poor"
Research that matters?
(Flyvbjerg, 2001)
A different way?
Assemblage thinking, being “interested in emergence and process, and in multiple temporalities and possibilities” (McFarlane, 2011) allows “an open and explorative engagement with the urban” (Farías, 2011)
No pre-assumed categorization
Role of the urban in the experience of homelessness
Challenge normative policies
Context are “a parcel of socially constructed time-space which is more or less “elongated” [...] In each of these parcels of time-space “subjects” and “objects” are aligned in particular ways which provide particular orientation to action” (Thrift, 1996)
Increased attention to homeless people’s “performativities … [that are] bound up in complex ways with the architecture of the city” (Cloke, May and Johnsen, 2010:62)
“It is impossible to be a normal, honest, person here. It is the environment that makes you to do bad things. They don’t listen to me. They do not want to help me. And in this city it is impossible to find a job. It is the whole thing that brings you to steal, to sell Nun Teresa’s clothes, to do whatever you can do to find money!” (Marco, Feb. 2010)
“I got this car… I can’t even remember when. [Pause]. I don’t have it anymore, of course! But their fucking PC still says that I’m the owner. But owner of what?! I don’t have that car anymore” (Daniele, Apr. 2010).
Me: Why do you go there three times a week?!
Antonio: And what should I do, tell me! You’re the professor.
Antonio: Listen. That [name of the volunteer] is a dickhead. He knows what I want, and I know why he is there. And that’s all. We have to play the game. Sometimes he gives you something. Sometimes you just waste your time. But you see… I have time.
Me: What does he give you?
Antonio: You know, stuff. Sometimes two euros. Toothpaste. Cream.
Me: You should be full of cream by now!
Antonio: What do you think I am?!? I sell it!
(Antonio, Feb. 2010)
“Don’t run away with the money, eh! Come back with the fuel!!”
(Italian homeless ceasing another fellow, who was in charge of buying the wine, Field observation)
3 papers out for review
(1 theory, 2 on policy evaluation)

“So, what’s going on?”
“Look”, he replies. Between us there is just an empty space, a small portion of sidewalk. “What should I see? There is nothing here”, I say looking at him and pointing with my hand at the ground. “You are crazy”, he answers. Then he bends down, puts something in his pocket, and tells me: “Let’s go now”.
Free distribution of food. I give butter, someone is approaching.
Homeless person: “Don’t you have any other butter?” Me: “No, I’m sorry”
Homeless person: “That one is expired”
Me: “...”
Homeless person: [Looking at the butter] “...”
Me: “Do you still want one?”
Homeless person: [Keeping on looking at the butter] “Yes”
He brings me to the train station. We are in front of a traffic light now. He smells, I do too. “It’s green” I say, “let’s cross”.“Nope”, he replies. “Red is better”. The cars stop, and he starts to beg.
“The term ‘the homeless’ is paradoxical […] ‘the homeless’ are an extraordinary diverse and heterogeneous group that defies any single categorization”
(Ruddick, 1996)
Full transcript