Writing

 
 

Forthcoming and Under Review

Works under review are not posted online. However, if you're interested in reading please contact me at chrisherring.berkeley.edu

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“BETWEEN STREET AND SHELTER: HOMELESS SECLUSION AND THE NEUTRALIZATION OF POVERTY.” IN PRESS.IN J. FLINT, R. POWELL, AND L. WACQUANT (EDS.) RETHINKING URBAN INEQUALITY: CLASS, ETHNICITY, AND STATE IN THE POLARIZED METROPOLIS. LONDON: PALGRAVE. In Press.

On any given night, hundreds of thousands of Americans find themselves without a home and residing either outside on the streets or inside in a shelter. Yet, we know very little about why some go in and others stay out. This article examines the dynamic connection between these two primary spaces of homeless seclusion in the US metropolis through a case study of San Francisco: a city known for both its robust shelter system and large number of unsheltered homeless. The paper draws on an enactive ethnography living alongside those on the streets and in shelters, and an ethnography of the bureaucratic field working alongside policymakers, police officers, social workers, and community groups, to illustrate how state classifications and policies sort, propel, and repel sections of the poor into one space or another. The paper builds on and extends Wacquant’s underutilized conception of socio-spatial seclusion (2010) to elaborate how state regulations of physical space (shelter/street) work in consort to (re)produce distinctions in social space (deserving/undeserving) that both fuels inequality from below, while neutralizing poverty through invisibilization and de-politicization.

 
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FIGHTING ANTI-HOMELESS LAWS THROUGH PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH: REFLECTIONS FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO COALITION ON HOMELESSNESS’ CRIMINALIZATION STUDY."  IN PRESS. WITH LISA MARIE ALATORRE, JENNIFER FRIEDENBACH, BILAL ALI, TJ JOHNSTON, AND DILARA YARBROUGH. IN S. GREENBAUM AND P. ZINN (EDS), OUTSIDE THE IVORY TOWER: COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH AND COMMUNITY ACTION. NEW BRUNSWICK: RUTGERS UNIVERSITY PRESS. In press.

Formed in 1987, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness has been organizing against the criminalization of poverty for over 20 years. In collaboration with sociologists, we conducted a PAR study about the effects of the criminalization of homelessness in San Francisco. This chapter discusses 1) how our participatory research process enhanced the quality of data and worked as a vehicle for organizing 2) how our project impacted the organization, city, and narrative on the criminalization of homelessness and 3) how we confronted assumptions about expertise as we worked to establish homeless people as leaders and experts in the local policy arena.  Our successes, struggles, and process will be useful to other researchers and organizers designing and implementing projects that establish the expertise and leadership of directly affected communities.

 
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“PERVASIVE PENALITY: HOW THE CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMELESSNESS PERPETUATES POVERTY.” R&R AT SOCIAL PROBLEMS. WITH DILARA YARBROUGH AND LISA MARIE ALATORRE.

A growing literature is looking beyond incarceration to understand the extent to which the criminal justice system perpetuates poverty and inequality. This paper examines how anti-homeless laws, the most prominent and rapidly growing subset of quality of life laws in US cities today, produces various forms of police interactions that fall short of arrest, yet have wide-ranging impacts on the urban poor. Because such interactions are largely untracked by the state, and in turn under-scrutinized by scholars, our study provides one of the first assessments of the effects of quality-of-life policing on marginalized groups drawing on a citywide survey of those who have recently experienced homelessness along with 43-in-depth interviews. Our analysis elaborates the mechanisms through which consistent punitive interactions, including move-along orders, citations and destruction of property systematically limit homeless people’s access to services, housing, and jobs, while damaging their health, safety, and well-being. Our findings also suggest that anti-homeless laws and enforcement fail to deliver on their promise of reducing urban disorder, instead creating a spatial churn in which homeless people circulate between neighborhoods and police jurisdictions rather than leaving public space. We argue that these laws and their enforcement, which affected the majority of study participants, constitute a larger process of pervasive penality consistent punitive interactions with state officials that most often do not result in arrest, but nonetheless exact widespread and deep material and psychological harm. This process not only reproduces homelessness, but also deepens racial, gender, and health inequalities among the urban poor. 

 
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“URBAN REVANCHISM RELOADED: HOMELESSNESS, POLICING, AND GENTRIFICATION.” UNDER REVIEW AT ANTIPODE.

Geographer Neil Smith first conceptualized Urban Revanchism - the vengeful reclaiming of city spaces from the most oppressed by the rising classes of the new economy – in the struggle over Tompkins Square Park and its homeless residents in 1988. Since then the revanchist thesis has been hugely influential in charting studies on the punitive turn in homeless and urban policy more generally. It has also been widely critiqued. On the 30th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park protests, this paper considers what has changed and what has stayed the same with regards to the criminalization of homelessness over the past three decades, while also addressing the critiques of the revanchist thesis. Drawing on an ethnographic study in San Francisco, the paper demonstrates how urban revanchism persists stronger than ever in regulating homelessness in the US metropolis. However, it expresses itself  in novel ways and is promulgated by causes both new and unrecognized than originally conceptualized.

 
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Concentrated Poverty.” In The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies. Wiley-Blackwell. In Press

Concentrated poverty refers to a spatial density of socio-economic deprivation. The concept and term is primarily utilized in US policy and scholarship to refer to areas of “extreme” or "high-poverty" defined by the federal census as areas with "40 percent of the tract population living below the federal poverty threshold. Concentrated poverty has taken on multiple conceptual formations, being used as (1) an analytic measure, (2) a designation of territory, and (3) a causal variable in explaining social, health, and economic outcomes.  While initial scholarship on the topic focused on the causes of concentrated poverty, most contemporary urban research focuses on measuring and explaining its effects; the extent of a possible “double burden” imposed on poor families living in extremely poor communities of both being poor and living in a poor community. The concept and related scholarship have become central to spatially targeted and area-based policy interventions, particularly in the field of housing.

 

2016

 
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“ENGELS IN THE CRESCENT CITY: REVISITING THE HOUSING QUESTION IN POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS” WITH EMILY ROSENMAN. 2016. ACME: AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR CRITICAL GEOGRAPHIES. IN SPECIAL ISSUE REVISITING ENGELS’ HOUSING QUESTION, T. SLATER, H. LARSEN, A. HANSEN, AND G. MACLEOD (EDS).

Before Hurricane Katrina, renters comprised the majority of New Orleans’ population. The disaster destroyed a disproportionate amount of rental housing, particularly in the affordable sector. Yet the vast majority of reconstruction funding and volunteer labor has gone to homeowners and initiatives to increase homeownership in the city. We explore the legitimation of this bias toward propertied interests through the lens of Engels’ (1872) critical assessment of Proudhonist and bourgeois socialist ‘solutions’ to the housing question of 19th century Britain. We consider three aspects of Engels’ critique that have been crucial to the post-storm policy regime in New Orleans: homeownership framed as a solution to social problems, the shifting of the housing question into legal and moral spheres, and housing ‘solutions’ enacted by the state that ultimately benefit the propertied and moneyed classes. In examining the contemporary housing question of post-Katrina New Orleans, we extend Engels’ evaluation of the legal and moral spheres that come to veil and reproduce urban economic and racial inequalities, while distinguishing the expanded role of the contemporary state in supporting the tenets of an ‘ownership society.’ Our argument explores how neoliberalism disguises state actions that protect and expand property ownership in contemporary capitalism

 
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“LIVING THEORY: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES FOR TEACHING THEORY ETHNOGRAPHICALLY” WITH M. ROSALDO, J. SEIM, AND B. SHESTAKOVSKY. TEACHING SOCIOLOGY. 2016.

This article details the principles and practices animating an “ethnographic” method of teaching social theory. As opposed to the traditional “survey” approach that aims to introduce students to the historical breadth of social thought, the primary objective of teaching ethnographically is to cultivate students as participant observers who interpret, adjudicate between, and practice social theories in their everyday lives. Three pedagogical principles are central to this approach, the first laying the groundwork for the two that follow: (a) intensive engagement with manageable portions of text; (b) conversations among theorists; and (c) dialogues between theory and lived experience. Drawing on examples from our experiences as Graduate Student Instructors for a two-semester theory sequence, we offer practical guideposts to sociology instructors interested in integrating “living theory” into their own curricula by clarifying how each principle is put into action in course assignments, classroom discussions and activities, and evaluations of student learning. We conclude by encouraging sociology departments and instructors to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of offering social theory courses built around in-depth readings of, and conversations between, social theorists and the social world.

 
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“Sheltering those in Need: Architects Confront Homelessness.” Introductory Essay for the 2016 Berkeley Prize Essay Competition. UC Berkeley, College of Environmental Design

The crisis of shelter in the modern metropolis is a social problem that necessarily invokes an architectural response. As co-founder ofArchitecture for Humanity, a non-profit solving design problems in service of the world’s poorest, writes, “If you strip away the ego, the archi-lingo, and the philosophies of design, the sole purpose of architecture is to provide shelter.” Yet all too often, the architecture of basic shelter is left to the poor themselves, who create or adapt ad-hoc temporary structures to guard against the elements, or else to bureaucrats whose designs do not address the needs of the homeless and displaced, but rather the housed and state officials who are often interested in quarantining the poor at the lowest possible cost.

This year’s BERKELEY PRIZE Competition asks students to investigate the sheltering of those in need within their own communities from a different angle, by considering how architects might mitigate the suffering of the displaced by designing for the needs, desires, and interests of the marginalized and supporting efforts to abolish homelessness.  It asks students to consider architecture as a social art, which incorporates the social, political, and humanitarian context of design and its humanitarian possibilities. While the obvious structural solution to this query is the production of housing, until there is political will to realize it, our contemporary moment urgently requires temporary and transitional accommodations that provide more comfort than the pavement.  It is from this liminal zone of dwelling, between street and home, that architects of the 21st century must sadly grapple with as the precarious, floating, and stateless factions of society who have no place to call home continually increase in cities across the globe

 

2015

 
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“TENT CITY, AMERICA” PLACES JOURNAL. DECEMBER, 2015. 

A synoptic overview of mass homeless encampments in the United States and their relationship to urban economy, politics, and policy from the mid 19th century to the present.

 

 
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“EVICTING THE EVICTED: FIVE MISLEADING RATIONALES OF HOMELESS CAMP EVICTIONS.” PROGRESSIVE PLANNING. FALL, 2015.

Despite being tolerated long enough by authorities to amass dozens and even hundreds of homeless individuals, most mass homeless encampments in the US are eventually evicted – whereby local police forces along with legions of public work employees forcibly remove those who have already been evicted from the private spaces of the real estate market. Drawing on a comparative analysis of field observations and statements by public officials of evictions in five California cities this brief commentary outlines the five common justifications made by officials for eviction and establishes their fallacy each through the empirical outcomes of “camp clearance.”''

 
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Punishing the Poorest: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty. Policy Report. With Dilara Yarbrough, Lisa Marie alatorre, and the San Franncisco coalition on Homelessness.

This report documents and analyzes the impacts of the rising tide of anti-homeless laws in an era of mass incarceration on those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco drawing on findings from a citywide survey of 351 homeless individuals and 43 in-depth interviews carried out by volunteers at the Coalition on Homelessness and supervised by researchers at the UC Berkeley Center on Human Rights.  We also analyze data from public record requests on policy, citations, and arrests received from the San Francisco Police Department, Sheriff ’s Office, Human Services Agency, Probations, and Recreation and Park Department. The report provides an in-depth analysis of each step in the criminalization of homelessness — from interactions with law enforcement, to the issuance and processing of citations, to incarceration and release – and makes evident how criminalization not only fails to reduce homelessness in public space, but also perpetuates homelessness, racial and gender inequality, and poverty.

 
 
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“THE ROOTS AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES’ HOMELESS TENT CITIES.” WITH MANUEL LUTZ. CITY, 19 (5). 2015.

Since the turn of the 21st century several US cities have witnessed the resurgence of large-scale homeless encampments. This paper explains how and why such encampments emerged during a period of national economic expansion through a comparative study of encampments in Fresno, California and Seattle, Washington. Contrary to the widespread media coverage of tent cities as a consequence of the most recent recession, the paper argues they are instead rooted in penal and welfare urban policies. Precipitating as both protest and containment, durable encampments relieve the fiscal and legitimation crises of criminalization and shelterization for the local state and simultaneously function as preferred safe-grounds to the shelter for homeless people in both cities. Rather than contradicting the existing policies and theories of the ongoing punitive exclusion of marginalized populations, the seclusion of the homeless into large encampments complements its goals of managing marginality across the city.

 
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“The Magical Bum. State of Things Film Journal. 2015.

Over the past two decades, the trope of the magical negro has flourished in the American cinema. This mystical black character is depicted as wiser and spiritually deeper than the white protagonist and he often possesses supernatural or magical powers. His wisdom and powers are then used to save and transform tousled, uncultured, lost, or broken whites into competent, successful, and content people within the context of the American myth of redemption and salvation. Slipping into the ‘90s lineup without much popular notice, the stock character entered into public consciousness only in 2001 when film-maker Spike Lee, addressing college audiences at Washington University and Yale, critiqued this trend as no more than a reincarnation of the same old stereotype of African Americans as the "noble savage" or the "happy slave" that had existed for decades in film and TV. But the magical negro is not only black, he is also often poor - impecunious, uneducated, and in some way outwardly or inwardly disabled either by discrimination, disability, addiction, or social constraint. He is also often stuck in dead-end jobs of the modern day precariat – as bus drivers and janitors, or even worse, prisoners or homeless. This essay explores the trope of the Magical Bum in American Cinema: tracing the caricature’s genealogy, illustrating its key attributes, and interrogating the cultural myths they project.

 
 

2014

 
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"THE NEW LOGICS OF HOMELESS SECLUSION: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES.” CITY AND COMMUNITY, 13(4), 285-309. 2014.

Since the late 1990s, scores of American cities have witnessed the re-emergence of large-scale homeless encampments for the first time since the Great Depression. Commonly portrayed as rooted in the national economic downturn and functionally undifferentiated, this paper demonstrates that large-scale encampments are rather shaped by urban policies and serve varied and even contradictory roles in different localities. Drawing on interviews and observations in 12 encampments in eight municipalities, this study reveals four distinctive socio-spatial functions of encampments shaped by administrative strategies of city officials and adaptive strategies of campers. I demonstrate how large-scale encampments paradoxically serve as both tools of containing homeless populations for the local state and preferred safe grounds for those experiencing homelessness. The paper concludes with a discussion on the implications of homeless seclusion for social analysis and policy, arguing that exclusion and seclusion are two sides of the same coin of the management of marginality in the American city.

 
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“FOUR FALLACIES OF THE JUNGLE EVICTION.” BEYONDCHRON. SAN FRANCISCO. DECEMBER, 2014.

An Op-Ed published in the wake of the eviction of San Jose's largest homeless encampments.

Republished in the Street SpiritKQED Forum. Cited on Alternet, Truthout, California Planning and Development ReportPlanetizen (2014).

 
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 “Struggles for the Public University” Co-editor with Manissa McCleave Maharawal. Forum in the Berkeley Journal of Sociology. 2014.

Around the world over the past decade students, teachers, parents, employees, and citizens have protested against the privatization of the public university. While the dismantling of public education has often been defined by tuition increases and reductions of government funding amidst fiscal crises, this forum reveals deeper political, cultural, and economic machinations. Comprised of a collection of essays and interviews by students on the front lines, the forum links local struggles with broader forces shaping the conflicts and opportunities on the ground.

 
 

2013

 
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“The Housing Question of Disaster Reconstruction:  Rebuilding New Orleans on the Tenants of Ownership Society” In E. Murphy and N. Hourani (eds.), The Housing Question: Tensions, Continuities, and Contingencies in the Modern City. Ashgate Press. 2013.

New Orleans’ recovery paradigm has been framed by policy makers and community activists as a bottom-up, citizen-led, and market driven reconstruction. Resonating with this portrayal has been the flurry of criticism by scholars over the neoliberalization of New Orleans (Smith, 2005; Davis, 2006; Peck, 2006; Kelman, 2007) and an impressive output on new theories of disaster capitalism (Klein, 2007; Gunewardena and Schuller, ed. 2008), that have highlighted waves of privatization, tax reductions, welfare cuts, and the withdrawal of the state. However, interrogating the complex, overlapping, and multi-year story of America’s largest post-disaster housing program in its history reveals that New Orleans’ reconstruction is not simply or even primarily a product of new market-based approaches and “roll-back” of the state, but instead being driven by a “roll-out” of state programs privileging the city’s propertied class. Examining post-disaster housing policy at multiple levels of government reveals that the state’s consistent bias towards subsidizing and privileging homeowners has significantly contributed to the uneven geographic development of New Orleans. I argue that this pol icy bias, which conflates victims-rights with property rights, has allowed claims of citizenship to both veil and justify a process to redistribute power from the larger group of renters that faced disproportionate losses to the smaller group of less affected homeowners within the city.

 
 

2012

 
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“THE HOMELESS QUESTION OF OCCUPY” WITH ZOLTAN GLUCK. IN OCCUPY!: SCENES FROM OCCUPY AMERICA. ­NEW YORK: VERSO PRESS. 2012. 

Zoltan Gluck (CUNY) and I reflect on the politics of homelessness within the Occupy Movements of Oakland, New York City and beyond. We explore the tensions between the housed and unhoused people who ended up occupying public space together during these moments of protest. We argue for a prefigurative politics of inclusion that does not exclude the unhoused who may be merely seeking shelter within protest encampments and the need to articulate this as a critique of the state rather than a problem of the camp.  Published prior to the scores of evictions of occupations across the US and globe by mayors whom justified such evictions not as acts against free-speech and protest, but rather safe and healthy hazards caused by the presence of  "a-political" unhoused people.

Reprinted from The Occupy GazetteNew York: N+1 Publishing. October, 2011.

 
 

2011

 
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 “From Berkeley to New York: Rearticulating the Struggle for Education.” with Zoltan Gluck. The Occupy Gazette. New York: N+1 Publishing. November, 2011.

Zoltan Gluck and I examine how Occupy changed the student movements in Berkeley and New York City and how the student movement is shaping the Occupy Movements. With Occupy's attention to the privatization and financialization as connected processes at the heart of neoliberalism student movement discourse in both cities has shifted from a narrow conversations about tuition to a broader one about a system of corporate predation that makes higher education unaffordable, inaccessible, and reliant on unsustainable debt-financing and speculation.

 
 

2010

 
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TENT CITIES IN AMERICA: A PACIFIC COAST REPORT. NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS. WASHINGTON DC. 2010.

The report profiles 12 large homeless encampments in 8 west coast cities and explains how current tent cities have emerged and operate on a daily basis, how local government authorities have shaped and reacted to encampments, and how community organizing efforts at work within these settlements.

Cited in/on NBC, CBS, Newsweek, The Huffington PostAtlantic Cities, Daily Telegraph (London), United Nations Newsletter, Education News, Legislative Analysis of California Senate Bill SB608, and dozen of local news reports.