Marginality Reconsidered

  • Jessica Gerrard


Writing about marginality is invariably fraught: the lives of the homeless, poor and marginal are often portrayed as ‘failed’ lives. Critically reflecting on how research often replicates, rather than challenges, the representation of ‘failed lives’, this chapter offers an alternative approach to marginality. Drawing on postcolonial scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s notion of ‘margins’ as the “silent, silenced centre”, and surveying recent theorisations of precarity, poverty and expulsion, Gerrard argues for the importance of understanding marginality as an expression of the inequalities of the wider social relations of capitalism. Linking this approach to marginality to the research undertaken for this book, Gerrard outlines the research focus on the everyday working lives of homeless street press sellers.


  1. Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Violence, Harassment and Bullying and Homelessness.
  2. Back, L. (2007). The Art of Listening. Oxford/New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  3. Back, L. (2015). Why Everyday Life Matters: Class, Community and Making Life Liveable. Sociology, 49(5), 820–836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baldry, E., Green, S., & Thorpe, K. (2006). Urban Australian Aboriginal Peoples’ Experience of Human Services. International Social Work, 49(3), 364–375.Google Scholar
  5. Bhambra, G. (2009). Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Boltanski, L. (2003). Distant Suffering. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Breman, J. (2013). A Bogus Concept? New Left Review, 84, 130–138.Google Scholar
  9. Cloke, P., Cooke, P., Cursons, J., Milbourne, P., & Widdowfield, R. (2000). Ethics, Reflexivity and Reserach: Encounters with Homeless People. Ethics, Place & Environment, 3(2), 133–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Connell, R. W. (2008). Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  11. Constable, N. (2012, February 4). One-third of Big Issue Sellers Now Romanian. The Daily Mail.
  12. De Certeau, M. (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Ecker, J. (2016). Queer, Young and Homeless: A Review of the Literature. Child and Youth Services, 37, 325–361, ifirst.Google Scholar
  14. Erikson, K. (2008a). On Sociological Writing. Sociological Inquiry, 78(3), 399–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erikson, K. (2008b). Kai’s Response to Howard, Hana, Ben and Dorothy. Sociological Inquiry, 78(3), 437–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fanon, F. (2008 [1952]). Black Skin White Masks. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  17. Farrugia, D., & Gerrard, J. (2016). Academic Knowledge and Contemporary Poverty: The Politics of Homelessness Research. Sociology, 50(2), 267–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Felski, R. (1999). The Invention of Everyday Life. New Formations, 39, 15–31.Google Scholar
  19. Gale, T. (2005). Rough Justice: Young People in the Shadows. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  20. Gerrard, J. (2013). Class Analysis and the Emancipatory Potential of Education. Educational Theory, 63(2), 185–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gerrard, J. (2017). The Interconnected Histories of Homelessness and Labour, Labour History (awaiting print publication). Accepted 27 Oct 2016.Google Scholar
  22. Gerrard, J., & Ball, J. (2013). From “Fuck, Marry Kill to Snog, Marry, Avoid?” Feminisms and the Excesses of Femininity. Feminist Review, 105, 122–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gerrard, J., & Farrugia, D. (2015). The ‘Lamentable Sight’ of Homelessness and the Society of the Spectacle. Urban Studies, 52(12), 2219–2233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gerrard, J., Rudolph, S., & Sriprakash, A. (2017). The Politics of Post-Qualitative Inquiry: History and Power. Qualitative Inquiry, 23(5), 384–395.Google Scholar
  25. Gowan, T. (2010). Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Havemann, P. (2005). Denial, Modernity and Exclusion: Indigenous Placelessness in Australia. Macquarie Law Journal, 5, 57–58.Google Scholar
  27. Highmore, B. (2002). Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johnsen, S., May, J., & Cloke, P. (2008). Imag(in)ing ‘Homeless Places’: Using Auto-Ethnography to (Re)examine the Geographies of Homelessness. Area, 40(2), 194–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones, M. M. (2016). Does Race Matter in Addressing Homelessness? A Review of the Literature. World Medical and Health Policy, Published online first on 20 June 2016, doi: 10.1002/wmh3.189.
  30. Lefebvre, H. (2004). Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Marx, K. (1972). The Marx-Engels Reader, R. C. Tucker (Ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  32. McLoughlin, P. J. (2013). Couch Surfing on the Margins: The Reliance of Temporary Living Arrangements as a Form of Homelessness Amongst School-Age Home Leavers. Journal of Youth Studies, 16(4), 521–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miller, K., & Du Mont, J. (2000). Countless Abused Women: Homeless and Inadequately Housed. Canadian Women Studies, 20(3), 115–122.Google Scholar
  34. Morris, S. (2012, January 18). Big Issue Seller Wins Right to Claim Housing Benefit. The Guardian.
  35. Neilson, B., & Rossiter, N. (2008). Precarity as a Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception. Theory, Culture & Society, 25(7–8), 51–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Donoghue, L. (1998). Can We Call Australia Home: An Indigenous Perspectives of Housing, Fifth F. Oswald Barnet Oration. Melbourne: Ecumenical Housing Inc & Copelen Child and Family Services.Google Scholar
  37. Paradies, Y., & Cunningham, J. (2009). Experiences of Racism Among Urban Indigenous Australians: Finding from the DRUID Study. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32(3), 548–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peel, M. (2003). The Lowest Rung: Voices of Australian Poverty. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reay, D. (2007). ‘Unruly Places’: Inner-City Comprehensives, Middle-Class Imaginaries, and Working-Class Children. Urban Studies, 44(7), 1199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Robinson, C. (2011). Beside One’s Self: Homelessness Felt and Lived. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Sassen, S. (2014). Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Harvard: Havard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sherry, E. (2013). The Vulnerable Researcher: Facing the Challenges of Sensitive Research. Qualitative Research Journal, 13(3), 278–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Skeggs, B. (2004). Context and Background: Pierre Bourdieu’s Analysis of Class, Gender and Sexuality. In L. Adkins & B. Skeggs (Eds.), Feminism After Bourdieu. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  44. Skeggs, B. (2005). The Making of Class and Gender Through Visualising Moral Subject Formation. Sociology, 39(5), 965–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Skeggs, B. (2011). Imagining Personhood Differently: Person Value and Autonomist Working-Class Value Practices. The Sociological Review, 59(3), 496–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, D. E. (2005). Institutional Ethnography: A Sociology for People. Oxford: Alta Mira Press.Google Scholar
  47. Smith, D. (2008). From the 14th Floor to the Sidewalk: Writing Sociology at the Ground Level. Sociological Inquiry, 78(3), 417–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Spivak, G. C. (1988). Can the Subaltern Speak? In C. Nelson & L. Grossberg (Eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (pp. 271–313). Bassingstoke: Macmillan Education.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Standing, G. (2011). The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  50. Strangleman, T. (2017). Deindustrialisation and the Historical Sociological Imagination: Making Sense of Work and Industrial Change. Sociology, 51(2), 466–485.Google Scholar
  51. Sudbury, J. (Ed.). (2005). Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. New York/London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Suleri, S. (1992). Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition. Critical Inquiry, 18(4), 756–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Te Riele, K. (2006). Youth ‘at Risk’: Further Marginalizing the Marginalized? Journal of Education Policy, 21(2), 129–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2014). Unbecoming Claims: Pedagogies of Refusal in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(6), 811–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wacquant, L. (1996). The Rise of Advanced Marginaliy: Notes on Its Nature and Implications. Acta Sociologica, 39, 121–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wacquant, L. (2008). Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  57. Wagner, D., & White, P. (2015). Breaking the Silence: Homelessness and Race. In S. Haymes, M. Vidal de Haymes, & R. Miller (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States (pp. 456–462). London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  58. Warren, T. (2015). Work-Time Underemployment and Financial Hardship: Class Inequalities and Recession in the UK. Work, Employment & Society, 29(2), 191–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Watson, J. (2016). Gender-Based Violence and Young Homeless Women: Femininity, Embodiment and Vicarious Physical Capital. The Sociological Review, 64(2), 256–273.Google Scholar
  60. Wilson, L. (2003). This Land Was Forcefully Taken. Labour History, 85, 200–201.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Gerrard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourne Graduate School of EducationMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations