Women's Shelters: Governance, Neoliberalism, and the Creation of the “Shelter-Citizen”
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In this thesis, I expand upon existing governance research by examining the strategies deployed in women's shelters and theorize them as neoliberal mechanisms of governance intended, through “gentle coercion” (Cruikshank, 1999), to produce ideal shelter user-subjects. Drawing from Cruikshank's analysis of advanced governing strategies as creating the state-citizen (1999), I examine how both regiment-based shelters that rely on rules and punitive consequences, and shelters that use primarily caring-based governance approaches serve to project the notion of an ideal “shelter citizen.” This subject embodies neoliberal ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility and aspires to middle-class norms, such as obtaining housing and gainful employment. I argue that the women’s shelter is situated in a particular way in the neoliberal state, as both distinct from, and a potential extension of the state. It therefore provides a unique example of how Cruikshank’s analysis of governance can be applied to an entity that purports to be separate from state governance, but which actually ends up extending neoliberal-based forms of governance into a supposedly “non-governmental” sphere. Additionally, as there is a notable lack of existing research on how governance operates within caring-based women's shelters, this research helps to fill this gap by focusing on the manner in which these shelters use “gentle coercion” as a form of neoliberal governance. I also focus on the strategies that these shelters employ to categorize and classify “acceptable” and “unacceptable” shelter residents, and how shelter-citizens often adopt these attitudes when talking about other shelter users. I conclude by arguing that such governance can be problematic for women whose identities and experiences differ from those of the essentially White, middle-class, and able-bodied cis-gender “shelter-citizen” ideal that is implemented within shelter procedures and programming.
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Natalie Adamyk (2018). Women's Shelters: Governance, Neoliberalism, and the Creation of the “Shelter-Citizen”. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12854