Governing Homelessness: The Discursive and Institutional Construction of Homelessness in Australia
(2015) Housing, Theory and Society, 22 p. Article in Press.
This paper analyses changes in the conceptualization of “homelessness” in Australian policies, programmes and services from the 1970s to 2006. Research and commentary confirm a shift away from an understanding of homelessness in terms of “structural”, social and economic factors to an understanding in terms of “individual” issues. Research reflects this dichotomy, but attempts to reconcile the two explanations have failed in practice. Using Foucault’s work on governmentality, historical official statements and in-depth interviews, I show how changing policies and programmes, involving an extension and reconfiguration of political power beyond the state, had a constructive role in shaping “homelessness”. This “welfare reform” characterized homelessness as dependency, and programmes increasingly focussed on producing a managed form of self-reliance, shifting the conceptualization of homelessness towards individual explanations.