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Social Exclusion 101 – Discreet Discomfort

November 27, 2009 by and tagged ,

How can a town or a city make sure that the sight of homeless people does not offend the good, hard-working citizens? Especially in these bad economic times when there might be more of them hanging around the cities of France? Easy, make it impossible for them to sit down where they normally would, but not obviously, of course. This mode of exclusion has to be stealth and not esthetically unpleasant.

That is what this series of photos over at Rue 89 shows. For instance, these discreet little spikes:

Or even these small pyramids:

Or the falling dominoes:

When it comes to making it uncomfortable for homeless people to sit down and take the load off, cities can be very creative. Do check out the entire series of photos:

These devices clearly delimit who is a legitimate participant in the public space and therefore who is a legitimate urban denizen.

Posted in Social Exclusion, Urban Ecology | 9 Comments »



9 Responses to “Social Exclusion 101 – Discreet Discomfort”

  1.   XavierM Says:

    On the same topic, see also the visual sociology report by Gilles Paté et Stéphane Argillet, published in Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales in 2005 :
    BANCS PUBLICS
    Regard sociologique sur l’ordinaire des espaces urbains
    http://www.cairn.info/revue-actes-de-la-recherche-en-sciences-sociales-2005-4-page-116.htm

    Reply

  2.   Newton Campos Says:

    This is quite common in Brazil and but we do not have to be sorry for all of the people that live on the streets. Some people live on the streets because they want (they are too lazy to work). There will always be people living on the streets. There has to be a way of separating homeless people that need help from people that do not have anything better to do.

    Reply

    •   SocProf Says:

      @Newton Campos,

      Several things here:

      1. “we do not have to be sorry for all of the people that live on the streets.”:

      Neither the point of the post nor of the initial report. It is about the exclusion from PUBLIC space of a certain categories of people deemed undesirable because of their social status. Feel the way you want, that does not change the exclusionary logic.

      2. “Some people live on the streets because they want (they are too lazy to work).”

      An often-made, hardly ever factually supported argument. And here again, immaterial to the exclusionary logic as we do not treat non-homeless “lazy” people in such a fashion in public places.

      3. “There will always be people living on the streets.”

      So what? Again, that, by itself, does not necessitate to exclusionary policies.

      this is just the usual reactionary fatalism that allows one to tolerate atrocities and indignities inflicted upon others with a clear conscience.

      4. “There has to be a way of separating homeless people that need help from people that do not have anything better to do.”

      Again, putting spikes and making public places unfit for certain activities, like just sitting down, does not accomplish such a discrimination.

      And just out of curiosity, what would be the mechanism to distinguish one from the other?

      On what ground is sitting down in a public space “nothing better to do”? You might as well dismantle any public park that people might enjoy, for fun, exercise, or just hanging out (which you might redefine as “nothing better to do”).

      This type of thinking has nothing new to offer beyond repressive and moralistic hectoring.

      Reply

      •   Timothy Dale Edwards Says:

        @SocProf, As a former homeless man, I experienced this type of exclusionary treatment, both physical and legal(so-called civility ordinances). This only furthered my despair and drove me deeper into depression and alcoholism. Such policies served to dehumanize and disenfranchise. Thank you for showing them in the way that you have here.

        Reply

        •   SocProf Says:

          @Timothy Dale Edwards,

          You’re welcome, Tim. I hope you’re doing fine.

          “Civility ordinances”… what an appalling euphemism for “kick the bums out”.

          Reply

    •   Andrew Grimes Says:

      “Some people live on the streets because they want (they are too lazy to work). There will always be people living on the streets.” There has to be a way of separating homeless people that need help from people that do not have anything better to do.”

      Okay let’s follow this spurious and false claim. You can separate out the large numbers of mentally ill people among the homeless and then show them compassion by providing shelters half=way homes and a roof over their heads and take care of their health.

      Reply

  3.   Theophile Escargot Says:

    I mentioned this on my own blog, and the commenters think some of these devices are meant to stop skateboarders doing tricks and slides.

    Reply

    •   SocProf Says:

      @Theophile Escargot,

      Interesting. It wouldn’t be surprising and there is nothing against using the same device against two types of socially undesirables: homeless and non-conforming youth (I assume skateboarders would be of that type).

      Either way, it’s about control of the public space and what kind of activity is considered appropriate and what kind of participants is considered legitimate.

      Reply

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