Contesting the deviant other: Discursive strategies for the production of homeless subjectivities

Toft, A. (2014). Contesting the deviant other: Discursive strategies for the production of homeless subjectivities. Discourse & Society, 25(6), 783–809.


This article analyzes the discursive strategies deployed in the linguistic production of homelessness and homeless persons in the context of city-level policies on urban camping in a major urban center in the USA, and outlines the ways that homeless activists contested their use in the public sphere. Homelessness has historically been defined as a deviant form of behavior and the subjectivity of ‘homeless’ has functioned as a social stigma alongside other forms of deviance. I build on analysis of racism and anti-Semitism by examining three linguistic mechanisms deployed by speakers to produce and contest homelessness as a deviant subjectivity: the use of metonyms in processes of synechdochization, the use of metaphors in describing groups and actions, and how processes of lexicalization attach meaning to places and social categories across three categories of deviance prevalent in descriptions of homelessness and urban camping: dirtiness, drugs, and danger.

Keywords corpus linguistics, deviance, homeless, lexicalization, metaphor, metonym, semantic network analysis, social movement, subjectivity

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