Opponent: Professor Jon May, School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London.

Huvudhandledare: Docent Thomas Borén, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet. Handledare: Docent Ilda Lourenco Lindell, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Ordförande vid disputationen: Docent Karen Haandrikman, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Betygsnämndens ledamöter: Professor Irene Molina, Institutet för bostads- och urbanforskning och Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet, professor Shahram Khosravi, Socialantropologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, och docent Lisa Kings, Institutionen för samhällsvetenskaper, Södertörns högskola. Suppleant: Docent Lukas Smas, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.


Since the early 2010s, Stockholm has seen a visible emergence of homelessness and begging amongst predominantly Romanian citizens, many of whom identify as Roma, who have collectively come to be known as ‘vulnerable EU citizens’. Despite their prolonged presence and a great deal of political attention, there remains a lack of in-depth research into their experiences of homelessness in the city.  This thesis addresses this gap and seeks to forge a deeper understanding for both the experiences and spatial practices of these individuals in Stockholm, as well as the responses with which they have been met by state and society at the local and national levels. The study employs a mixture of qualitative research methods, primarily grounded in semi-structured interviews with ‘vulnerable EU citizens’ in Stockholm, alongside interviews with other actors in the city, ethnographic observations and text analysis. It is theoretically grounded primarily within the critical literature on geographies of homelessness.

The thesis consists of a comprehensive summary and three papers, all with a focus on understanding the experiences of ‘vulnerable EU citizens’ in Stockholm and the ambivalent responses with which they have been met. Paper 1 explores issues relating to access to water and sanitation infrastructure for this group in Stockholm. In doing so it reveals the multiple strategies that individuals must employ in order to meet their basic needs, as well as the effects that limited access can have with regard to their emotional experiences and spatial practices in the city. Paper 2 directs attention to the use of public space for livelihood activities in two areas of Stockholm, with a focus on the ways in which ­local police have responded to begging practices. It demonstrates the ways in which unevenly punitive policing landscapes have developed through interwoven relations including the agency of individual police officers and the path-dependencies created by local spatial orders. Paper 3 turns to analyse the logics and effects of national political discourses addressing the presence of ‘vulnerable EU citizens’ in Sweden, placing these political discourses into conversation with interview material collected in Stockholm with ‘vulnerable EU citizens’ themselves. The analysis suggests a political response that is sensitive to the potentially damaging effects that this visible form of homelessness can have from the perspective of the majority housed-population, more so than to the needs of those actually experiencing homelessness.  

Together, the papers highlight the multiple barriers that these individuals must overcome in order to meet their basic needs, while suggesting that the ambivalence of state responses stems from a need to maintain a discursive moral legitimacy while seeking to promote the ‘voluntary return’ of these individuals to their countries of origin. These results then suggest a conflation of homelessness management with a politics of international mobility control, and the thesis contributes to the international literature on geographies of homelessness by engaging with this under researched aspect of modern homelessness management in the European context.

Nyckelord: homelessness, international mobility, punitive, revanchism, relational, agency, emotion, begging, policing, hygiene, water and sanitation, discourse, qualitative case studies, Roma, Romanian, Stockholm, Sweden, EU.