Politics & Political Theory

Subalternity as displacement: Memoirs of homelessness and the struggle to be heard

Building on the writings of homeless and formerly homeless memoirists from the United States and United Kingdom, this paper examines how the voices and ideas of those who experience homelessness are consistently removed from public debate and historical memory. While people without homes are discussed at length in journalistic and academic texts, their own voices are rarely at the center of such conversations. Memoirists argue that this exclusion is not passive or benign. They attest to persistent efforts to make their voices heard, even as newspapers, television stations, and other institutions of knowledge obstruct their efforts. In this way, homeless voices are actively and repeatedly displaced by the commentary of elite experts. Based on these insights, I engage with literature in geography and subaltern studies to advance a new understanding of subalternity as a process of epistemic displacement. Moving beyond deconstructive approaches to representation, I argue that challenging subalternity involves disseminating subaltern scholarship, journalism, and expertise to confront society's failure to listen.

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Volume 39 Issue 4

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