Learning to feel at home. Governing homelessness and the politics of affect

The emotional and affective dynamics of homelessness are an established matter of concern in geographical research. Geographers have called attention to homelessness as an embodied phenomenon and to the emotional distress that affects people experiencing homelessness. What has achieved less attention though are the politics of affect that characterize spaces of care. Attempts to make homeless people ‘housing ready’ often target emotions and try to provide clients with a sense of belonging and feelings of responsibility in matters of housekeeping and homemaking. The paper takes these attempts to create emotionally stable ‘housing ready’ selves as a point of departure to open a set of broader questions concerning the nature of encounters between the welfare state and its citizens. It shows how spaces of care address ‘housing readiness’ as a personal ability and thereby abstract from the complex affective entanglements and prepersonal conditions that characterize dwelling. To highlight the paradoxical
effects of therapeutic approaches to dwelling as a subjective emotional skill that can be mastered, I contrast the notion of ‘housing readiness’ with recent work in the field of affective geographies that allows for a different articulation of dwelling as a dense web of practices, atmospheres and relations between people, spaces and things.

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