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Needed by Nobody: Homelessness, Humiliation, and Homelessness in Post-Socialist Russia
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Homelessness became a conspicuous facet of Russian metropolitan cityscapes only in the 1990s, when the Soviet criminalization of ‘vagrancy’ and similar offences was abolished. 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 and during the successive years (when anthropological fieldwork was conducted).

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 (including the permission to work). In addition they have lost, or never had, the intimate social networks that constitute the ultimate social ‘safety net’ in Russia, and which is the most important context for a sense of ‘being needed’. The study investigates processes of social exclusion as well as the sustenance strategies of these ‘human leftovers’ – or the remaining ‘world of waste’ of things, tasks, and places that nobody else wants.

The main focus of the study is, however, human worth. Being ‘not needed’, 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 they consider to be ‘decent’. 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 being a worthy human?

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Socialantropologiska institutionen , 2005. , 240 p.
Keyword [en]
Russia, post-socialist society, homelessness, housing, state surveillance, informal economy, urban space, intimate social relationships, gender, identity,
National Category
Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-747ISBN: 91-7155-162-XOAI: diva2:198355
Public defence
2005-12-16, hörsal 9, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00
Available from: 2005-11-24 Created: 2005-11-24Bibliographically approved

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