Crossing the Line
Vagrancy, Homelessness and Social Displacement in Russia
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This pioneering book is the first to explore the experiences of homeless people in Russia in the late Soviet period and during post-socialist transition. Through their own stories, it introduces us to the hidden world of vagrants, itinerant workers and the street homeless - roofless people living on the streets, in cellars, in the lofts of apartment blocks, in train stations, in rubbish dumps or in holes underground. Using in-depth biographical interviews, Svetlana Stephenson documents the processes of their displacement; the strategies they adopt for survival and building social bonds; and the barriers which block their escape from homelessness. These narratives are placed within a framework of theoretical perspectives on social and spatial exclusion; interaction between space and social identity, and the regimes of settlement and social control. The structural causes of homelessness are discussed, together with the criminological, legal and expert discourses that constructed vagrants and the homeless as 'social waste' in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. Stephenson advances our understanding of homelessness as an extreme case of social-territorial displacement, and sets out its causes and its individual consequences within the larger social and political context. She suggests that by using the concept of displacement, particularly in a historical perspective, it is possible to better understand the ways in which social systems produce marginality and homelessness.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction. The Homeless Experience in Russia Today: Homeless people and urban social space; Street society; The process of homelessness. Pathways Into Homelessness: Homelessness in the Soviet Union; Soviet outcasts: displacement, expulsion and self-expulsion; Homelessness in post-Soviet Russia; Displacement and paths into homelessness; Homelessness and regulation of social space. Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
Svetlana Stephenson is a Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences at the London Metropolitan University, UK.
’This is an important, highly readable book. Its author is undoubtedly the expert on post-Soviet homelessness in the West and this book is the project of extensive fieldwork and serious theoretical engagement with the subject matter. It is a genuine, and much awaited, contribution to the field.’ Hilary Pilkington, University of Warwick, UK 'Dr Stephenson's new book is that rare phenomenon: a serious work of sociological scholarship which, once opened is practically impossible to put down. Through her intensive research and field work since 1993, she enables her readers to enter the lives of the bomzhi, the street people of Moscow. She provides a rigorously scientific yet compassionate understanding of how and why they have fallen outside the limits of society... This is an important book and should be read by anyone with an interest in Russia, or the problems of homelessness.' Journal of Europe-Asia Studies ’This groundbreaking study of homelessness in Moscow, based on extensive qualitative research amongst homeless people and detailed analysis of state-led responses to homelessness, explores processes of socio-spatial marginalisation which lead to the categorisation of homeless people as social waste, viewed as barely human. The detailed insight and wider vision of this book will fascinate policy-makers, practitioners and scholars.’ Rebecca Kay, University of Glasgow, UK ’...an authoritative and original account of a section of Russian society which is little understood even by Russians themselves. It will be of interest to anyone interested in Russian society or indeed in homelessness as a universal phenomenon...all in all, this is a fascinating, well-written and intellectually stimulating book which deserves to be widely read.’ The Russian Review '...Svetlana Stephenson's book is a major contribution to this field. The book advances our understanding of homelessness and marginalization in Russia . This is especially important as homele