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Type: Theses
Title: Troubled lives: vulnerability, livelihoods and capabilities of homeless women living in a train station in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Author: Williams, Shoshannah Kate
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences : Anthropology and Development Studies
Abstract: This thesis aims to provide insight into the dynamic nature of vulnerability within the everyday lives and life histories of women experiencing homelessness in Dhaka, Bangladesh. An anthropology of development approach was adopted within this study, with fieldwork conducted over a period of ten months, from 2014 – 2015, within a large train station in Dhaka. I explore the processes of becoming, living and remaining homeless for women, and in doing so, shed light into the multidimensional, multi-layered and dynamic nature of vulnerability for the urban poor. An asset focused understanding of vulnerability and livelihoods, commonly employed within development theory and practice, does not do justice to the multiplicitous and fluid ways in which women attempt to negotiate and cope with risk within their everyday lives. I argue that re-integrating capabilities into a conceptualization of livelihoods, or asking what women are able to ‘be and to do,’ allows the processes underpinning women’s vulnerability to be interrogated. Women’s lives problematize dominant development theories and public narratives surrounding their homelessness, with structural constraints to employment and housing or economic poverty as inadequate explanations for why women become and remain homelessness. My analysis demonstrates structural gender inequalities, everyday violence and uncertainty as key to understanding women’s vulnerability and homelessness. Women’s discussions of their ‘troubled lives,’ or the reoccurring broken, exploitative and inadequate relationships perpetuating trauma and loss throughout their life histories, were painful realities not merely regulated to the past, but which continued to hold implications for women’s present and future lives, livelihoods and capabilities. Utilizing ethnographic data, the thesis explores the precarious livelihoods of sex-work, marriage and ‘living alone’ as women pursue, and make complex trade-offs between, the survival, protection and honour that they seek. I argue for a trauma-informed approach to addressing gendered homelessness, with the fine-grained analysis and tools developed throughout this study providing a means by which development practitioners can sensitively engage with, conceptualize and address the vulnerabilities, capabilities and livelihoods of marginalized urban populations.
Advisor: Skuse, Andrew John
Drew, Georgina
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2018
Keywords: Gender
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at
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