The hopeful labour of begging – Homeless people’s struggles for a better life in Paris

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jats:pBoth in public imagination and scholarship, begging is often associated with passivity, waiting, inactivity and as such defined as the opposite of ‘real work’. During two years of fieldwork with people sleeping rough in Paris, I observed my informants to the contrary describe begging as their occupation. In this paper, I present an ethnographically grounded argument that the people experiencing homelessness I accompanied over the course of two years experienced begging as labour which involved constructing and supporting emotional narratives of neediness, deservingness and personal connections in scripts, stories and hustles. My interlocutors often understood this labour to be a hopeful one, one that structured their day (and thoughts) but also one that enabled their projets de vies, their struggles into the future. In the wake of overwhelming suffering and structural violence, I observed begging not only a short-term fix for consumption but also as keeping the future open – the more long-term future of eventually leaving the street behind.</jats:p>

Begging, labour, homelessness, hope, future
Journal Title
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
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SAGE Publications
Embargo: ends 2021-04-08