Homeless Youth on the Road and in the Streets


Homeless Youth on the Road and in the Streets

• The anthropology of deviance

• “sub-cultures”

• Urban anthropology

• The anthropology of space and place

The Anthropology of Deviance


• Modes of action which do not conform to the norms or values held by most of the members of a group or society.

• What is regarded as 'deviant' is as widely variable as the norms and values that distinguish different cultures and subcultures from one another.

• Many forms of behaviour which are highly esteemed in one context, or by one group, are regarded negatively by others.


• shared sense of order (predictability): the meanings we attach to people, things, and actions.

• "Otherness" (differentness) challenges our assumptions, our taken-for-granted sense of normalcy and naturalness

• Deviance is problematic, yet essential and intrinsic to any conception of Social Order.

Deviance & Social Control

• Deviance is a label (PROCESS) used to maintain the power, control, and position of a dominant group.

• Deviance is a negotiated order.

• The definition of deviance defines the threat and allows for containment and control of the threat

• definition of deviance preserves, protects, and defines group interests and in doing so maintains a sense of normalcy.

• Deviance is a product of Social Interaction.

Deviance and Conformity

• Social constructions

• idealized conduct is most clearly seen in marginalized people

• deviance forces them into "discredited" or

"discreditable" groups, based on the nature of their stigma

• deviance & the existence of a stigma


• "mark of infamy or disgrace; sign of moral blemish; stain or reproach caused by dishonorable conduct; reproachful characterization" (Webster, 1913)

• Social stigma

– social disapproval of personal characteristics or beliefs that are against cultural norms

– social stigma often leads to marginalization


• Multi-dimensional concepts

– Represents a range of possible perceptions

• Of what is normal and not normal

• Whether it is controlled or not by the norms of society

• Times & places people can behave in an abnormal way

• Most cultures disapprove of forms of public behavior that are obviously not being controlled

Zones of social behavior

Zones of social behavior

• Not static, fluid categories, spectrum of possibilities

– Change with time & circumstance

– Normal in one group – abnormal in another

• Controlled normality (A)

• Uncontrolled normality (D)

• Controlled abnormality (B)

• Uncontrolled abnormality (C)

Zones of social behavior

• A, D, B – it is assumed that the individual is at least aware of what the social norms are

– Whether they conform or not

• Substance use

– Traversing the categories of “bad” and “mad”

– Criminal & Intoxication

– Temporary madness

Which Group?

• Modes of action which do not conform to the norms or values held by most of the members of a group or society

• Deviance, stigma, zones of social behavior

• Reminder: What is regarded as 'deviant' is as widely variable as the norms and values that distinguish different cultures and subcultures from one another .


• In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a set of people with distinct sets of behavior and beliefs that differentiate them from a larger culture of which they are a part.

• The subculture may be distinctive because of the age of its members, or by their race, ethnicity, class and/or gender

• the qualities that determine a subculture as distinct may be aesthetic, religious, occupational, political, sexual or a combination of these factors


• Versus “community”

• Sub-cultures have come to designate social groups which are perceived to deviate from the normative ideals of some community

• Small-scale association of people united by a common interest

• Sub = “beneath” or “within”

• Variance from a larger normal, average, dominant collectivity

– Consciousness of otherness or difference

Sub-cultures & difference

• Difference defined in contrast to existing norms

• As opposing category – embraces those norms in the process of differentiation

• Social & cultural reproduction

• Mimesis & alterity

• Hegemony -- the dominance of one group over other groups, with or without the threat of force

Hegemony & Cultural Control

• Cultural perspectives become skewed to favor the dominant group.

• The cultural control that hegemony asserts affects commonplace patterns of thought

• Hegemony controls the way new ideas are rejected or become naturalized in a process that subtly alters notions of common sense in a given society.

Cultural hegemony

• Cultural hegemony is a concept coined by

Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci.

• a diverse culture can be ruled or dominated by one group or class, that everyday practices and shared beliefs provide the foundation for complex systems of domination.

– What’s bad, mad, normal, deviant, etc.

Urban Anthropology

• The urban – spatially dense, heterogeneous population

– Heterogeneity & “sub-cultures”

• Anthropology & ethnography applied to the study of urban phenomena

• the causes, processes and consequences of urban migration and urbanization

• cross-cultural similarities and variations in urban ways of life

• how people negotiate urban life as a particular sociocultural world

• rural-urban influences, neighborhoods, ethnicities, subcultures, social networks and stratification to understand how social relations are constructed and how cultural knowledge is distributed in cities

Conceptual Approaches

• ecology models

• community, family, and network analyses

• studies of power/knowledge of planning and architecture

• supralocal/local linkage analyses

• political economic, representational, and discursive models of the city


• The ethnic city - mosaic of enclaves

• The divided city – hidden barriers of race & class

• The gendered city – a male preserve

• The contested city -- attention to ‘spatialising’ of culture

• The de-industrialized city

• The global city

• The informational city

• The modernist & post-modernist city

• The sacred city

• The fortress city


• “The processes of segregation establish moral distances which make the city a mosaic little worlds which touch but do not interpenetrate.

• This make it possible for individuals to pass quickly and easily from one moral milieu to another, and encourages the fascinating but dangerous experiment of living at the same time in several different contiguous, but otherwise widely separated worlds” (Park 1952:47)

dominant research trends in urban anthropology

• Post-structural studies of race, class and gender in urban context

– Structure & agency

• political economic studies of transnational culture

• studies of the symbolic and social production of urban space and planning

Space & Place

• Place and space -- central constructs within geography, archaeology, architecture and landscape architecture.

• emphasized spatial thinking, visualization, and the use of non-linear and conceptual modes of representation (maping, drawing, and model building).

• other academic disciplines rarely studied space and place.

• architectural design, settlement layout, or the visual character of a region as the “setting”

• spatial patterns, the meanings that groups and individuals attach to landscape and built environment, and spatial modes of problem solving usually not considered

The anthropology of space & place

• Built environments

• place is a space to which meaning has been inscribed

– space as an abstract, universal, non-cultural phenomenon

• we only have place: experienced, practiced, local

• Built world and geographies as systems of signs and symbols

– a language of signification

two different approaches to space/place

• one that emphasizes the experiential, situational, sensual, contingent aspects of space

• the other emphasizes the brute force of power, the structural, and the continuity of structuring principles of built environments



• Spatial-cultural habits of mind, body,

• immutable link between cultures, peoples, and identities & specific places

• notion of culture based on the inseparability of identity from place

– Deterritorialization

– Diasporic public spheres -- part of the cultural dynamic of urban life in most countries

– migration and mass mediation




• opposition between domestic (reproduction), private, & public (production) provides the basis of a framework to identify and explore place

• Domestic/private: public sphere clearly drawn in societies where division of labor encompasses more than age & sex differentiation

• mobility not just through geographic space but social space (associations)

Home and Street

• The term street children refers to children for whom the street more than their family has become their real home .

• It includes children who might not necessarily be homeless or without families, but who live in situations where there is no protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults.


• The public view of street children in many countries is overwhelmingly negative.

• The public has often supported efforts to get these children off the street, even though they may result in police round ups, or even murder.

• There is an alarming tendency by some law enforcement personnel and civilians, business proprietors and their private security firms, to view street children as almost sub-human.

Children in the U.S.

• The United States is one of only two countries in the world that have not ratified the United Nations

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

• Somalia—a country without an internationallyrecognized government — is the other.

Abuse as Deviance

• deviance destroys the credibility of the normative

– Conformity (cultural & social) and the family as normative behavior & interactions

– Deviant behavior & interactions & expectations

– Damages the expectations of cultural conformity

• Family as site of emotional life & learning

– Damages the character of the individuals

Abusive Family Life to Street Life

• The emphasis on idealized, normative identity and conduct limits the ability of the discredited individual to achieve full acceptance by the population that he or she is forced to assimilate into.

• For the discreditable individual who attempts to

"pass" and employ "disidentifiers" to establish him/herself as "normal" (44), feelings of ambivalence and alienation emerge as a result of limited social intercourse.

Street Life as Normative

• idealized, normative identity and conduct of street life provides another social milieu for the individual to achieve full acceptance by the population that he or she chooses to assimilate into.

• Can "pass" and employ "identifiers" to establish him/herself as "normal" (44)

• Loss of feelings of ambivalence and alienation emerge as a result of changing context of social intercourse.