On Shaken Terrains
Practices of attention at an urban day shelter
This paper builds on short-term fieldwork at an urban day shelter in Brussels which provides affordable showers and other essential services to homeless and undocumented people, respectively sans-abris and sans-papiers. In dialogue with Simone Weil’s writings on attentionality and ordinary ethics literature, this paper firstly proposes that ethical dispositions informing workers’ and volunteers’ navigation of the shelter’s volatile spaces often grow out of the imperatives of the everyday, rather than being imposed upon practices as external principles. Secondly, it frames everyday ethical action as what philosopher Laugier calls a ‘politics of the ordinary’. As such, this paper offers ethnographic insight into modes of social organising that embrace the fluctuating character of the everyday.
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