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Urban Spaces, Homelessness, and the Public Sphere: The Urban Homeless Counterpublic

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Title: Urban Spaces, Homelessness, and the Public Sphere: The Urban Homeless Counterpublic
Author: Forrest, Andy
Advisor: Nadkarni, Maya
Department: Swarthmore College. Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: This paper is an ethnography of homeless and formerly homeless activists who participate in a member-led grassroots organization in New York City named Open City. The ethnography is based on interviews with the members of Open City and personal experiences volunteering with the organization. The lives of the urban homeless, who spend a great deal of time navigating public spaces, are dictated by a set of spatial politics that determine who may access certain spaces and for what purposes. These spatial politics have repercussions for the homeless' ability to be recognized as citizens in the public sphere. Despite this, the homeless resist their erasure from the public sphere using strategies similar to other activist movements that take place in urban public spaces, such as the recent Occupy Wall Street movements. However, the homeless require certain provisions before they can demand rights of representation in the public sphere. Open City’s success lies in its ability to connect the needs of the homeless to the right to participate in the public sphere and to reconstruct homeless individuals as subjects of rights rather than recipients of provisions.
Subject: Homeless persons -- Social aspects
Subject: Homelessness -- Social aspects
Terms of Use: Full copyright to this work is retained by the student author. This work has not been published and access is restricted to members of the Swarthmore College community. It may only be used for non-commercial, research and educational purposes at Swarthmore College. All other uses are restricted.
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Forrest, Andy. "Urban Spaces, Homelessness, and the Public Sphere: The Urban Homeless Counterpublic". 2012. Available electronically from

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