Category Archives: Biopolitics

The Epistemic Geographies of Homelessness

For the last couple of years I have been working to better understand the epistemic geographies constituting the politics of homelessness in Canada. After following the rise of policy models such as Housing First it became more apparent to me that calculative practices, particularly ones that measure social costs, have proven instrumental in transforming social service systems addressing chronic homelessness. Damian Collins and Jalene Anderson (both at the University of Alberta) and I recently published an article in Social Science & Medicine – entitled Homelessness, Bedspace and the Case for Housing First in Canada – that offers a preliminary attempt at mapping this calculative geography. We arrived at the term ‘bedspace’ to describe this political spatiality. Abstract and link to the article is below.

Homelessness, Bedspace and the Case for Housing First in Canada

Abstract

The act of problem formation is integral to the policymaking process. Moreover, the process by which certain situations, experiences or events are rendered problematic hinges upon the places, spaces and networks through which the issue is made visible and intelligible to policy makers and decision makers. In this paper, we explore these epistemic geographies by unpacking one such example e the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s At Home/Chez Soi study, a federally funded, $110 million field trial of the Housing First (HF) model. HF prioritizes rapid rehousing of the chronically homeless, followed by separate support and treatment services. The model has become widespread in Canada since 2005, based in large part on understandings of its cost-effectiveness. In this article, we utilize At Home/Chez Soi as an illustrative case for examining how ‘chronic homelessness’ is translated into a discourse of costs and benefits, and given an accounting value, through a series of translations. This problematization advances a particular logic, what we refer to as ‘bedspace’.

Mapping the political in medical and health geography: The terra incognita of biopolitics

For a sub-field organized around health and wellbeing, medical and health geography has had little to say about life and its many forms. At the moment, this is a theoretical gap that is being addressed by geographers operating outside the sub-disicplinary boundaries of medical and health geography. With this in mind, some colleagues (Heather Castleden and Jeff Masuda) and I set out to articulate why and how medical and geographers should engage with this growing literature on the politics of life. Our attempt (below) represents a first intervention and as such is a working draft. The aim is to ‘finish’ this draft by further articulating what is different about engaging with ‘life’ versus ‘health’ and refining some ideas about affirmative biopolitics. 

Abstract: Medical and health geographers are united by a dual interest in the politics of health evidenced by overlapping engagements with public policies, most notably those related to health disparities and accessibility to health services. In this literature review we explore the relevance of ‘biopolitics’ as a theoretical framework for critically engaging with the politics of health. Biopolitics directs attention to the powers that organize life itself. We begin by reviewing Michel Foucault’s writings noting what is unique about his perspective and how it helps us see the politics of life in a new way. We then map two contemporary manifestations of the politics of life: molecular politics and geopolitics. We conclude by reflecting upon the ways that biopolitics helps us better understand political investments in life and their stakes while opening doors to a life-affirming domain of praxis.

The Terra Incognita of Biopolitics_DRAFT

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