Homeless People in Public Space and the Politics of (In)visibility

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Homeless people were a new sight in the post-1989 Czech Republic, as the previous regime effectively criminalized homelessness. Thus, in the 1990s, the new visibility of homeless people was a shock to the public eye. This paper is based on a longitudinal study of how, based on this new visibility, the representations of homeless people developed throughout the 1989–2015 period. The paper focuses on the interplay between physical visibility of homelessness and its visibility for public policy.

It introduces a threefold theoretical model of how the former is transformed into the latter: The article argues that to be recognized as “problematic” in public space, a group must (a) be recognized as a distinct category (categorical visibility), (b) be recognized as a threat to the civil order (moral visibility), and (c) that public policy must have legal instruments to perceive and address the issue (the eyes and arms of public policy).

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