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Care in limbo: an urban ethnography of homelesnessness and care work in Athens

Vogkli, Maria-Christina (2021) Care in limbo: an urban ethnography of homelesnessness and care work in Athens. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004268


This dissertation explores the intersection of care, homelessness and urban space in a context of austerity and a profound lack of resources. Based on an eight-month urban multi-sited ethnography in Athens (July 2017- February 2018), this research draws upon data collected through observation, visual methods and interviews with frontline staff, outreach workers and homeless people. Conducted at a time of multiple crises for the Greek capital, this ethnography offers a grounded analysis of urban marginality, vulnerability and care. It focuses on the urban landscape of care for homeless people. In exploring this landscape, this research unravels the different social, spatial and institutional relations that shape the interconnection of homelessness and care. It considers both macro-level and contextual factors affecting the socio-spatial formation of this landscape in the city and micro-level manifestations of care through relationships and spaces of care. Paying attention to both homeless people and care workers, I position care relationships at the epicentre of a landscape unfolding on an interpersonal, organisational, local and national level. In this regard, this dissertation provides both a panoramic view of the city and a close-up analysis of an array of spaces: from exterior, public spaces to interior, mundane spaces where care meets homelessness and other forms of vulnerability. These include the city’s Municipal Centre for the Homeless (the Municipality), its hostels and a night shelter, a drop-in centre and various public locations including a central Park. The dissertation demonstrates that the landscape of care was a space of shared vulnerability and fragilities, not just for the homeless people seeking care, but also across the organisations and workers committed to care. Revealing different dimensions of being deprived of a home, I reconceptualise homelessness as a condition of ontological insecurity. I argue that homelessness was perpetuated by the complex landscape of care as it played a role in pushing homeless people from conditions of marginality to extreme psychological and material marginality. Bringing together theories of care, care ethics and geographical perspectives on care, I analyse various encounters between homeless people and their care workers, which were shaped by an array of obstacles, adverse conditions and insufficient resources – financial, human, material, emotional and spatial. Ultimately, I show that the efforts of care workers to provide more tailored care, and of homeless people to receive it were undermined to such an extent that care workers and homeless people drifted apart, leaving care in limbo.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Maria-Christina Vogkli
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Hutter, Bridget and Hall, Suzanne and Foster, Janet

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