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Tova Höjdestrand

Tova Höjdestrand

Docent | Universitetslektor

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?








  • Social Anthropology




  • Karin Norman


  • ISBN: 91-7155-162-X


17 december 2005




D9, Stockholm University


  • Bruce Grant