Homelessness and Violence: Freud, Fanon and Foucault and the shadow of the Afrikan sex worker
In this thesis, I will argue that one of the ways to think about the concept of homelessness and its relationship to violence is to trace the concept as it emerges in key theoretical texts of critical intellectuals who find themselves both in and outside the Western homeland. In attempting to do so, I limit this thesis to three key theoretical articulations from which the concept of homelessness can be extracted: the works of Sigmund Freud, Franz Fanon and Michael Foucault. In bringing to bear the life and work of these individuals, the hope is to conceive of the relationship between violence and homelessness in new and unforeseen ways. I propose to bring an informed interdisciplinary and gender perspective to bear on the concept of homelessness. Accepting the supposition that the body can be seen as a site of homecoming,I explore the question of who owns the body. This exploration is undertaken through an examination of the advocacy slogan, ‘my body, my business’, and the placement of the Afrikan sex worker alongside Freud, Fanon and Foucault. The Afrikan sex worker in this work is a new feminist potentiality in much the same way that homelessness offers new postcolonial possibilities. While much of postcolonial criticism has centred on the problem of the colonized subject’s relation to the home, there has not yet been a sustained undertaking of the history and meaning of the concept of homelessness and, more importantly, its relationship to the experience of violence in the contemporary world. The history of homeless people tends to be recorded through surveillance and documentation by those institutions responsible for providing discipline, punishment, shelter and cure so as to ‘save’ and ‘rescue’ them. These responses, particularly when done systematically, can become frameworks that hold the homeless person ransom to a particular language game of ‘truth’, thereby restricting the homeless person’s movement and possibility of finding a voice. Deriving a concept of homelessness from the life and work of Freud, Fanon and Foucault allows for new insights. These thinkers offer a view of homelessness that is productive for thinking against the grain of dominant orthodoxies. This contrasts with the implication of pathologization of homelessness which arises in the frameworks of dominant political,therapeutic and social work approaches.The creation of homelessness also recalls the attendant violence of its experience. I argue that the space of homelessness needs to be contextualized. When homelessness is imposed, as with torture or a tsunami, there is a closing down of space; but when chosen, as with the transgendered sex worker who leaves her home and community due to threats, impositions and judgements, homelessness may paradoxically open up space. Drawing on the insights from these theorists, I also suggest that the concept of homelessness may at a symbolic level serve rather as a powerful space of resistance to hegemonic practices of belonging, offering a way of destabilising dominant patriarchal, heteronormative and Western constructions of home.The thesis concludes that homelessness cannot be kept outside the boundaries of the home; and neither can the homeless be fully assimilated into the homeland, as something within the home is irreducible to any ordering of things. The border, boundary and intersections of home and homelessness are blurred, forever incomplete, as the home finds itself ceaselessly stained and crossed with the uncanny, that is, the ‘unhomely’. Home, as noted by Delia Vekony (2010), is a site of hospitality. It is a space to think, play, and dream, eat, make love and raise children. But it is also a stage upon which the state apparatus, global economy, monotheistic religions and patriarchal order assert control over the body. Homelessness has been constructed as a material experience for many: a site of terror, abandonment and lack of direction. It is often experience it as free falling or as the mental foreclosure of space. Yet I underline another dimension of homelessness: as an experience of liberation. This ‘camping on the borders’ allows for a disruption of identification, a state of refuge from the demands of others and a form of nomadic thinking. Within any home setting lurks the uncanny, what cannot be housed, likewise within any homeless setting a becoming-at-home is possible. Both home and homelessness hold the possibility of terror as well as a comforting, exciting retreat and escape.