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Type: Thesis
Title: Tenuous guests: couch surfing through homelessness in the lives of Australian youth.
Author: McLoughlin, Pauline
Issue Date: 2011
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: This thesis critically informs current research concerned with youth homelessness in Australia. Drawing upon interview accounts and discussions with young people and youth workers, I examine couch surfing as a prevalent practice in young people‘s experiences of dislocation. I conceptualise this practice as both a means and outcome of relying on temporary living arrangements with local households. These living arrangements are distinctive in that young people source them from their own social connections, in the face of having nowhere else to go. Through a grounded, interpretive engagement with the interview accounts, and a social constructionist epistemology, I examine the relational processes that shape and produce couch surfing. In doing so, I map out how couch surfers are drawn into a series of highly tenuous relationships with the households they turn to; relationships that I argue render living arrangements vulnerable to collapse. Focusing on the production of these tenuous relations, I argue in this thesis that couch surfing practices are both an immediately accessible tactic for young people attempting to (re)negotiate home; and a set of embodied, practical actions for navigating dislocation. By approaching couch surfing in this way, I importantly indicate how young people‘s experiences of homelessness are continuous with a broader context of social exclusion, patterning the life chances of Australian youth. Through this perspective, I am interested in how young people who couch surf navigate and contend with a marginalised social space; and, how their experiences shape identities, belonging, and ontological security. In mapping these dimensions of couch surfing, I contend that many young people in Australia are negotiating dislocation differently. Their experiences invite a crucial re-thinking of how we presently frame youth homelessness in research, in policy, and in practice. In particular, I propose that couch surfing unsettles the mainstream focus on problems of rooflessness and the purely structural aspects of disadvantage. In arguing this, I indicate the important role of ideological and political processes in young people‘s struggles for social citizenship. Ultimately, my aim here is to highlight the alternative readings of homelessness that young people‘s perspectives have offered in this research. The findings of this thesis will add to a critical imagining of the sorts of spaces and communities that young people can more properly ‘call home’.
Advisor: Oakley, Susan Ann
Bonham, Jennifer Dawn
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2011
Keywords: youth homelessness; sociology of youth; couch surfing; social citizenship; meaning of home
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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