Sociologický časopis
Czech sociological review


← Sociologický časopis / Czech Sociological Review 2/2013

Ondřej Hejnal:
The ‘Hilton’ as a Fecal Court: The Socio-spatial Aspects of Homelessness [241]

Hejnal, Ondřej. 2013. „Hilton jako „fekální dvůr“: Socioprostorové aspekty bezdomovectví.“ Sociologický časopis / Czech Sociological Review 49 (2): 241-268

Abstract: This article sets out to analyse the social (re)production of an object inhabited by homeless people that is located on the periphery of a mid-sized Czech city. Drawing on Edward Soja’s model of the trialectics of spatiality and Petr Vašát’s empirically based concept of heterotopia, the author describes three spheres (or space-types) of the object: (1) a historical and physical description of the object; (2) the dominant actors’ representations of the object (including politicians, municipal police, public authorities, and the local media); and (3) the object as a heterotopic ‘Hilton’ (the emic name of the object). He focuses mainly on the differences or junctions of these spheres/spaces. The empirical basis of this study is formed by data from ethnographic participant observation of the homeless, interviews, and various texts (e.g. media messages, public notices), which are processed in MAXQDA. There are some areas of contradiction between the three spaces: the negative descriptions by the dominant actors versus the social practices (e.g. pooling, borrowing) and strong social relationships in the Hilton, the seemingly irrational patterns of exploitation of the Hilton, the contrast between the filth outside the building and the clean state of the rooms, i.e. between chaos and order, the disparate views taken of dogs that live in the Hilton too, and ecological and hygienic problems, and so on. The negative view taken by local residents generates a fear of the homeless, which partly legitimises the ritual police inspects of the Hilton, and puts the public in the paradoxical position of both wanting to solve the problem, but rejecting the available tools to do so.

Keywords: homelessness, trialectics of spatiality, heterotopia, dominant actors, social production of space

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