Thursday Feb 11 (5pm Seminar Room)
Examining ways of conceptualising rough sleepers’ spatial ways of being
Dr Chantal Butchinsky
Abstract Current ways of knowing street homeless people are dominated, at the academic and policy level, by a focus on homeless people as having problems they need help with and/or seeing them as causing problems for other, housed and working people. These narrow policy concerns with the problematic nature of homelessness gain expression in terms such as ‘street culture’ and ‘service resistance’, and an increasing use of legal and semi-legal measures, such as the Vagrancy Act 1824 and ASBOs, dispersal orders and, more recently, Public Space Protection Orders. But rough sleepers’ practices and self-perceptions are suggestive of different ways of being ‘spatial’. The notion of a ‘culture’ draws a boundary that limits rough sleepers’ sociality to other homeless people, as if the fact of living on the streets were sufficient to explain service resistance. Instead rough sleepers do not appear to draw fixed boundaries and are not engaged in separating their ‘home’, ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ activities into different spaces or spheres. Terms such as ‘unhome’ (Veness 1993) and ‘economies of makeshift’ (applied by Fumerton 2006 and Hopper et al 1985 in relation to vagrancy and homelessness) are better able to approximate the sense of space as open, full of possibilities, unbounded by walls and other built structures. Bio Chantal Butchinsky has been researching street homelessness in Oxford for the past 15 years. She started this research for her doctoral degree and gained her PhD in Social Anthropology in 2004. Since then she has continued her research with rough sleepers, in particular those classified as ‘entrenched’ and ‘service resistant’. She is an associate lecturer at Birkbeck College London, where she teaches Anthropology of Space, Architecture and Landscape, and at Oxford Brookes University, where she is also an Honorary Research Affiliate. Chantal has recently joined, as a founding trustee, the Museum of Homelessness.