The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Tova Höjdestrand

Tova Höjdestrand

Assoc. Professor, Senior Lecturer | Director of Studies (Social Anthropology)

Tova Höjdestrand

Needed by Nobody: Homelessness, Humiliation, and Humanness in Post-Socialist Russia


  • Tova Höjdestrand

Summary, in English

Homelessness became a conspicuous facet of Russian metropolitan cityscapes only in the 1990s, when the Soviet criminalization of ‘vagrancy’ and similar offences was abolished. This study investigates homelessness as a sociostructural phenomenon as well as an individually experienced life condition, with a focus on homeless people in St. Petersburg in 1999 onwards.

To these men and women, homelessness can be concluded with the Russian expression nikomu ne nuzhen, ‘needed by nobody’ – a dilemma that in their case is twofold. They are ‘not needed’ as citizens since a permanent address in Russia is the precondition for all civil rights and social benefits (including the permission to work). In addition they have lost, or never had, the intimate social networks that constitute the ultimate social ‘safety net’ in Russia, and which is the most important context for a sense of ‘being needed’. The study investigates processes of social exclusion as well as the sustenance strategies of these ‘human leftovers’ – or the remaining ‘world of waste’ of things, tasks, and places wanted by nobody else that remains to them to survive from. Nonetheless, the main focus is human worth. As ‘not needed’, homeless people are subjected to a forceful social stigmatization, but their situation also deprives them of the social and material prerequisites for acting and relating to others in ways that they themselves consider to be ‘decent’. This study asks how human dignity is negotiated in the absence of its very preconditions. Which dimensions take precedence, and which cultural resources are employed to restore at least a makeshift sense of being a worthy human?

Publishing year




Document type



  • Social Anthropology




  • Karin Norman


  • ISBN: 91-7155-162-X

Defence date

17 December 2005

Defence time


Defence place

D9, Stockholm University


  • Bruce Grant