LURKING IN THE SHADOWS OF HOME: HOMELESSNESS, CARCERALITY, AND THE FIGURE OF THE SEX OFFENDER
Hanhardt, Christina B
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This dissertation is a multi-methodological and interdisciplinary project that examines how those who have been designated as "sex offenders" and are homeless in the Maryland/DC area are managed and regulated by various technologies of governance such as social policies, sex offender registries, and civil commitment statutes. By looking at the cultural, social, and political geography of shelters, the suburbs, and the city, I challenge scholars to reconsider how we understand stigma, belonging, and home. More broadly, I consider how the very construction of home is bound up in processes of sexual regulation and management that produce certain people as homeless by virtue of their proximity to sexual impropriety, deviance, and blackness. Put otherwise, some people are made to be or kept homeless as a result of their sexual practices or non-normative gender presentations, particularly when they are in direct conflict with dominant discourses about and legal definitions of acceptable sexual and gendered behavior. Access to home is equally mitigated by race. There has been, and continues to be, a long history of racial minorities searching for, being denied, and yet building home in geopolitical spaces that often articulate them as outside of home—as, in fact, homeless. I examine how those processes happen in tandem with and in contradistinction to modes of regulation organized around sexual deviance and difference. Drawing on scholarship in African American studies, carceral studies, and gender and sexuality studies, this project makes three critical interventions: 1) it frames sexuality as a central category of analysis necessary for understanding homelessness; 2) it offers new perspectives on the ways homeless sex offenders navigate and resist modes of racialized hypersurveillance; and 3) it argues that the structure of homeless shelters and housing policies are inherently designed to manage deviance. I draw on interviews of homeless service providers and homeless sex offenders, placing them in conversation with sex offender laws, public media, and popular film to map out the multiple contexts that structure the lives of homeless sex offenders. In doing so, I offer an alternative framework for policy interventions that attempt to address homelessness without centering the issue of race and sexuality.