[Foucault-L] advice

Hi all - I'm looking for studies based on homelessness (preferably homeless women) in the UK that have employed/discussed Foucault's concept of governmentality. So far I have found the following studies:

Sophie Watson (2000) is of the opinion that Foucault’s concepts of power, micro-politics, resistance and discursive practices offer ‘some useful insights’ into homelessness. She claims that homeless people’s use of public space and vacant properties, and their housing campaigns amount to local resistances. Moreover, these ‘local resistances in specific sites’ are what Foucault refers to as ‘micro-politics and represent important strategies for change’ (ibid: 166). Watson (ibid) advocates ‘interrogating the education of housing managers and uncovering hidden assumptions embedded in the material given to students, and analysing their effects’. She also suggests ‘paying attention to local contexts and the locally different effects of [housing] policies on different groups of people’ (ibid: 167). She asks ‘how are particular discourses mobilized and in what arenas and how can we intervene to change these?’ (ibid). For Watson (ibid: 168), the homeless woman’s body represents a ‘challenge to the feminine body, the mother or wife located in the home’ and as such ‘comes to be the ‘feared ‘other’, held up as a counterpoint to happy ‘normal’ life’. Thus, for Watson, ‘how homeless bodes are constructed offers an illustration of the way in which negative symbolic representations can serve yet further to marginalise the already marginalised’ (ibid). In advocating the use of Foucault’s ideas, Watson (ibid: 169) states that ‘gender is constructed in a host of ways’ therefore ‘combating women's homelessness requires flexibility and innovative approaches’. However, Watson applies Foucauldian theory in the general sense and does not explicitly link theory to any empirical data analysis.

Joanne Neale (1997), in Homelessness and theory reconsidered, refers to Foucault’s concepts of ‘regimes of truth’ and ‘micro-powers’ when discussing the importance of theory in the development of policy and provision for homeless people. Neale (ibid: 52) notes that micro-powers operate by ‘endeavouring to maintain existing power configurations and inequalities in order to sustain their own ‘regimes of truth’. In accordance with Foucauldian thinking, Neale clams that whilst there are no ‘grand structural forces’ that cause homelessness, there are forces which ‘make it likely that some individuals will fare worse than others in the housing stakes’ (ibid). Moreover, because ‘micro-powers seek to maintain the status quo, a likely objective of any policy or provision will be to ‘normalise’ homeless people’ (ibid: 53). Efforts to normalise homeless people are articulated via rehabilitative schemes which both treat and reform the homeless individual. Where Foucault suggests that injustices can be resisted at the particular points they manifest themselves, Neale claims how ‘resistance to local exercises of power’ could result from increased user control of homelessness services’ (ibid: 53). Notably Neale does not empirically apply Foucault’s work, however she does link theory to existing empirical data analysis.

In Rephrasing neoliberalism: New Labour and Britain’s crisis of street homelessness, May, Cloke and Johnsen (2005) draw upon a governmentality perspective in their analysis of changing government responses to street homelessness. Focusing on the Rough Sleepers Initiative (initially implemented by the Conservative government) and the Homelessness Action Programme (introduced by New Labour), the authors note how statutory homeless service providers are increasingly subject to central government control via funding controls, performance targets/indicators and the threat of exclusion from a more active role in shaping government policy. For May, Cloke and Johnsen (ibid: 727), governmentality does not reflect a ‘total capture’ of welfare services by central government given that particular services were not able to access central government funding, and services in receipt of government funding were able to circumvent the rules relating to fuding.

In Homelessness and social exclusion: A Foucauldian perspective for social workers, Chris Horsell (2006) examines the concept of homelessness as social exclusion in British and Australian government policy. In noting how the most prominent use of the term describes a wide range of issues - i.e. unemployment, poor skills, low income, poor housing/health, family breakdown, a criminal environment, substance use, rough sleeping, and school retention - Horsell concludes that in ‘operational terms’ the concept highlights the personal rather than ‘structural features of social exclusion’ (ibid: 216). Horsell opts for an alternative reading of homelessness as social exclusion using Foucault’s concepts of discourse, power/knowledge and surveillance. In doing so he argues that a Foucauldian approach ‘makes a significant contribution to an analysis of welfare discourses as sites of power and an account of the way subjects are constituted by power relations’ (ibid: 223). Moreover, he challenges the view that ‘the realm of the social is a single whole and gives support for resistance against the governmentalisation of the individual’. Horsell points to the limitations of Foucauldian analysis when applied to policy and practice - in that ‘class, gender and race are not solely constructed discursively’ (ibid).

Could you please advise on any others you may know of?

Best wishes,
  • Re: [Foucault-L] advice
    • From: Kaspar Villadsen
  • Partial thread listing: