Mystification, Violence and Women’s Homelessness

Cooper, Vickie and McCulloch, Daniel (2023). Mystification, Violence and Women’s Homelessness. In: Scott, David Gordon and Sim, Joe eds. Demystifying Power, Crime and Social Harm: The Work and Legacy of Steven Box. Critical Criminological Perspectives (CCRP). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 407–429.



In this chapter we use a Boxian analysis to explore how women’s relative absence from dominant understandings of homelessness is largely due to the historical construction of their homelessness as a personal affliction, or for transgressing the gendered social order of the home. Although Box (1983) did not refer to the social problem of homelessness, this chapter argues that his ideas are crucial for understanding how common-sense understandings of particular social problems in society are constructed by the exclusion and invisibility of key groups. Homelessness is a highly gendered phenomenon, but homeless women are rendered invisible, partly due to men being the main group whose disadvantage and deprivation is more readily ‘seen’ at critical moments of socio-economic decline and partly due to the normative assumptions surrounding the ‘home’ and ‘gender’, where meanings of home are personified by the idealised norms and expectations of women in society. Drawing on Box (1983), we argue that women’s multiple experiences of structural inequality and exclusion from dominant understandings of homelessness, leaves us with an ‘official view’ and dominant understanding of homelessness that conceals the state’s propensity to cause structural harm and violence in the context of homeless women.

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