Bathed in Modernity: Spatial Relegation of Houseless Individuals and Liberatory Approaches for Water and Sanitation in Group Camps
Bathed in Modernity:
Spatial Relegation of
Houseless Individuals and
Liberatory Approaches for
Water and Sanitation in
Group Camps in the US.
Association of American Geographers Annual Conference
“More Public than Private: Toilet Adoption and Menstrual Hygiene
Management” Panel Session
Abby Brown, PhD Student University of California Santa Cruz
email@example.com Santa Cruz, California
Spatial Relegation and
Social Exclusion and
Photo Matthew Woitunski on Wikimedia Commons.Photo lehcar1477 on flickr.
Photos PHLUSH and Shower to the People.
Spatial Relegation Overview:
Marginal areas in cities Social-service institutions
Photo Pepperdine.Photo Ray_from_LA on flickr.
Spatial Relegation Theory:
2) Social-service institutions
● Jason Adam Wasserman and
Jeffrey Michael Clair (2010) state
houseless are encouraged to seek
● “...institutionalize concepts of
homelessness as primarily a
function of mental illness and
addiction... exclusively offering
services aimed at treating those
1) Marginal areas
● David Snow and Michael
Mulcahy (2001) examine
how houseless individuals
are spatially relegated to
● “...space that has little if
any use value to most
residents; little if any
current economic or
exchange value...” (157).
= physical restrictions from water/sanitation
Spatial Relegation Water Sanitation: /
“Right here in this area,
they don’t let anyone. I
think there should be
more places to go. There’s
been a few times I had to
go real bad, and there’s
nowhere to go. You have
to walk quite a way, and I
do. I hold it and walk.”
“You cannot always go to Sisters
of the Road because they are
always full, you cannot go to
Blanchet because they got two
restrooms and the other is
closed, so you got one restroom
for fifty odd people plus and
then... and it is always full, the
public restrooms are either dirty
or full or under... or closed due to
1) Marginal areas 2) Social-service institutions
Social Exclusion Overview:
Vestiges of Public Health Discussions and
Civilizing individuals Social hygiene
Photo NYC Parks Department. Photo U of Minnesota Library.
Social Exclusion Theory:
1) Civilizing individuals
● Ruth Barcan (2010) shows
civilizing individuals was a
public health ideal during
● Concepts such as shame,
embarrassment increased and
people were expected to be
clean and hygienic.
2) Social hygiene
● Clara Greed (2003) states
“concepts of public health and
social hygiene were linked as
were immorality and assumed
unsanitary conditions” (38).
● Egan and Hawkes (2007)
“equated physical and moral
health to the social and
cultural health of a Christian
= social restrictions from water/sanitation
Social Exclusion Water Sanitation: /
“...when you are being chased from one place to another
and you are told that you cannot come in this area
because you might be a drug addict or you... you are
just too dirty to... to walk down the street, you do not
have a lot of control... there is no place to go to the
“...if I was dirty and dressed in rags and stuff I am not
sure that they would let me to do that every day at
that time, you know, they would... pretty much they are
going to stop me at the door and tell me, you know,
“This is for customers only.”
Group Camps Relegation Exclusion: /
Photo Israel Bayer from Street Roots.
Liberatory Water Sanitation/
● Decentralized water/sanitation.
● Centralized water/sanitation.
Photos from PHLUSH and MDML.
● Understanding spatial relegation and social exclusion helps
us see how houseless individuals are restricted from
● Houseless individuals in group camps experience enhanced
spatial relegation and social exclusion.
● Alternative approaches for water/sanitation might provide
insight on liberatory approaches for water, toilets, and
hygiene in group camps across the country.
● Liberatory approaches might include decentralized and
centralized efforts to counter physical restrictions but social
restrictions more difficult to overcome.
● Timely research as group camps are on the rise in the US.
For further discussion, please contact Abby Brown at