Street homelessness and the architecture of citizenship

Martin Whiteford

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The perception and experiences of homeless people in relation to the public spaces they occupy and identify as their own, and the corresponding struggle to assert and enact citizenship rights, remains an under-explored area of socio-cultural research. To help make sense of this neglect, I argue that citizenship – as a status and peformative act – is influenced and mediated by a series of complex and fluid interactions between physical, institutional and socio-political landscapes. This argument is developed with particular reference to an on-going PhD project that aims to illuminate the dynamic and complex ways in which rough sleepers draw on both context-specific experiential understandings and broader social processes in order to negotiate, embrace or challenge contemporary policy tropes and discursive strategies that position homeless people as degraded or shadow citizens. The paper concludes by arguing that any attempt to define more closely the relationship between street homelessness and contemporary citizenship must interrogate the meaning of citizenship empirically from the standpoint of homeless people and learn theoretically from these encounters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-100
Number of pages13
JournalPeople, Place and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2008


  • homelessness
  • architecture
  • citizenship


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