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Killing Time: A Relational Theory of Homeless Addiction

Burraway, Joshua; (2018) Killing Time: A Relational Theory of Homeless Addiction. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Based on fourteen months of fieldwork in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, this thesis explores the tragic relational and temporal complexities of homeless addiction in the context of late liberalism. Historically speaking, the majority of research on homelessness relates to discussions of public policy and “service access,” with the primary focus on macroeconomic factors. Furthermore, within this scholarly milieu, the question of addiction has typically been relegated to the periphery, acknowledged as a taken-for-granted condition or “driver” of homelessness, but rarely explored as an existential, political or ethical phenomenon in its own right. Notable exceptions within anthropology are Desjarlais’ (1997) study of a Boston shelter along with Bourgois and Schonberg’s (2011) photoethnography of San Francisco's homeless heroin users. In both cases, the homeless body is conceived at once as the locus and the instrument of political power, capricious and abjectifying though it may be. This thesis represents an extension of these seminal ideas, conceiving the homelessaddicted body as neither diseased, pathological nor singular, but as a plural body in ceaseless melancholic transition between different forms of being. In a critical departure from the biomedical model of addiction, this thesis takes as its analytical focus the drug-induced blackout. For the homeless, the blackout is a time in which they become “somebody else.” The existential mechanics of the blackout – in which the vacuum left by the dissolution of memory is filled by the emergence of a new concealed presence – provide an alternative means of thinking through the complex entanglement between memory, loss, temporality, agency and discipline in lateliberalism. Operating through an alternative temporal economy to the one laid down by capitalism (where time is killed rather than spent) the blacked-out body is thus also a black-market body; one that forces us to confront our most taken-for-granted everyday conventions.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Killing Time: A Relational Theory of Homeless Addiction
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10049034
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