Making better lives on the street - homeless people in Paris between long-term home-making and short-term pleasure
Johannes Lenhard (Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
Most of my rough-sleeping informants in Paris had hopes for leaving the street behind, hopes for a better life in the future. These hopes were on the one hand translated into small steps - what I call daily home-making practices - but on the other hand regularly clashed with short-term desires.
Paper long abstract:
A better life for people who were homeless in Paris consisted first and foremost of leaving the street behind. Their projet de vie was often connected to working towards a (new or re-found) home in the future: they wanted to return to their homeland, be reunited with their family, find a stable job. On a daily basis they broke these hopes down into manageable steps - often with the work of social workers. Which documents did I need to apply for temporary housing? Which benefits was I eligible for? Often, less straightforward practices - e.g. begging or squatting - were also part of what I call daily home-making activities in order to 'keep the future open'. In the daily struggle of the street, however, the long-term aspirations of (re-)making a home were often trumped by short term desires: forgetting the trauma that brought them to the street, checking out of the violence around them or simply feeling good by getting high. The result were many appointments missed, money wasted, rules and laws broken. It was often also guilt about a chance missed, the inability to focus on the 'important' things, the failure to work towards the longer-term future. I will start my analysis with examples of these moments of epiphany to unravel the underlying ethical conflicts - between the striving for a better life in the longer-term future and short-term pleasure.
Virtuous (im)mobilities: the good life and its discrepancies