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.