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Spaces, Places and States of Mind: a pragmatic ethnography of liminal critique.


Spaces, Places and States of Mind: a pragmatic ethnography of liminal critique.

Weissman, Eric Paul (2013) Spaces, Places and States of Mind: a pragmatic ethnography of liminal critique. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Weissman_PhD_S2014.pdf - Accepted Version


Spaces, Places and States of Mind: a pragmatic ethnography of liminal critique.

Eric Paul Weissman PhD.
Concordia University, 2013.

Intentional homeless communities, such as tent camps and shantytowns are increasingly entering political and academic debates about how to solve homelessness. Dignity Village Oregon, the first city licensed, homeless-built democratically self-governed, non-profit transitional housing community in US history, was the result of activists fighting for their rights to housing. It is central to debates about the role of homeless camps in various cities’ housing strategies. The village has been criticized from within and by conventionally housed Oregonians for lack of sustainability, a series of impeachments of leadership, failure to transition people into conventional roles and for the drug epidemic that has much of the membership in its grip. Theorized here as a by-product of the intrinsic logical contradictions of democracy and the exigencies of poverty, villagers’ liminality; their suspension between marginal and conventional statuses has an implicit function in the poverty management strategies of the city by keeping them off the streets and preventing them from organizing further.
Liminal space and the critical potential of homeless populations are under-theorized. Employing an interdisciplinary approach open to critical diversity called pragmatic ethnography of critique (PEOC), this dissertation uses video, participant observation and critical and reflexive storytelling from the point of views of participants to understand how residents of such communities establish critical commitments to one another and housing activism.
Dignity’s twelve-years of struggle are praised by housing activists as evidence of a noble fight for the rights of the poor but critics present it as a lawless, drug infested failure that should be closed. Villagers fear eviction. A solution is difficult to imagine. It is concluded that the village model is less satisfactory than conventional housing programs, but can have a temporary role in stemming homelessness. The village must engage in housing activism in order to empower itself in city politics. A hybridized form of self-governing in which village leadership, homeless advocates and city planners contribute to the political structure of the community is suggested as part of the solution.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Weissman, Eric Paul
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Individualized Program
Date:14 November 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Nielsen, Greg
Keywords:homelessness, ethnography, visual sociology, anthropology, housing policy, fieldwork, addiction, community studies, urban sociology, social problems, social critique, social theory, sociology, democracy, freedom, activism
ID Code:978648
Deposited On:16 Jun 2014 13:06
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:47
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