Maria José Coracini
Unicamp – IEL/DLA - CNPq
Narrating Homeless Life in a
Brazilian Context: ethics and
to present partial results of an analysis of the
discourse of thirty Brazilian homeless people,
paying attention to the ways of (self)-narration life stories.
discursive-deconstructivist perspective, based on
Foucault’s notions of power and discursive
formation; on the freudo-lacanian concept of
subjectivity and on the derridean critical thought,
named deconstruction.
interpretation is violence to the text,
because it transforms it, which will never
be equal to the original version.
Derrida on Plato's Pharmacy points out
that each reading (interpretation) is a decision (a cision), a cut on the text. But the
transformation is uncounscious.
 structured:
several question that
direct the respondent to answer in a
timely manner; there is no way for
interviewees to avoid the question
 semi-structured
interviews): the questions are open
and allow the interviewee to take a
position, to address other matters
that interests him or her, at that
BOURDIEU (2006, P. 185)
 Producing
a life story, seeing life as a story,
that is as a coherent account of a sequence of
events with a meaning and direction is perhaps
to deal with a rhetorical illusion, a common
representation of existence which has always
been reinforced by literary tradition.
story is constructed in a chronological and a
logical sequence - an origin (beginning and
source), reason of being, the cause, an end.
LEVI (2006, P. 169)
 story
life depends on the memory;
memory is not linear nor objective; it
incertitudes - hesitations, stops,
sighs, tears.
 Memory is fragmentary.
 participants construct past from the
present (inventing or interpretating
the past from the changes of the
 allows
to catch some formations of the
unconscious (FREUD, 1915), as lapses,
slips, gaps, stammerings, in sum the
equivocity of the language, everything
from the language in use.
 Lang (1996): oral testimonies as part of a
life story can provide participants with an
opportunity to reflect on their life, about
their life path, even before his speech.
And that is very important!
 Informal
statement: “Tell me about your
life on the street, your own experiences”.
Interventions of the interviewer;
 Look
and listen. The interviewer is
 Lacan
(1973/1998: speaking and being
heard are a means through which to
become a subject.
voice that sounds like a look; look and
listening mean that the homeless person
is recognized as a subject, as someone who
deserves to have a place in society. There
is a tension between voice and effect of
 “whatever
is said is forgotten behind what
somebody says in what you hear”.
(LACAN, 1998, p. 5).
 “I
have never thought about that before”;
“Thank you for the opportunity”; It is
another thing to speak to someone who
knows. But what the researcher or the
interviewer knows? This knowledge is
supposed –
TRANSFERENCE (in lacanian terms).
 If
there is tranference there is subject.
 At
the beginning: homeless person is very
anxious and reticent, but little by little
they take it easy, they seem relieved,
speaking more and more, using more
frequently the first person (I, me, my etc.);
 at the start, they speak loudly and prefer
to use the third person as if they were
speaking about someone else in the same
situation; at the end, they speak slowly
and in a low voice.
1) enunciation: indeterminant features
 2) organization of telling a self-(hi)story:
 Work, family, children, husband, mother, sickness;
 House; family: wife, children alcoholic and drugs
addition; mother’s life, his infancy (hard), violence
in streets; orange juice, sickness, infancy, parents,
street, other fellow etc.
 Family, religion, help, objects, alcohol...
 A breakdown strategy: terrible drugs” ; “that is
horrible; for the police they are nothing, if they were
rich they would respect them, but they are
homeless, they don’t deserve any kind of respect”.
Representations of the other, the passers-by:
“they cross the street, and scream: tramp,
useless, dirty people”. “one day when I got up I
saw a fellow burning on a bed made of cardboard;
someone had thrown gasolineset fire and fled.
Poor man!”
 Chronological marks: last year, now, ...
 Modal verbs and modalities: “it seems”, I/you
know, in my opinion”, “I think”...
 Assertive phrases: “it is...”; “he makes”; “my
mother was severe” etc.
Presence of subjectivity; avoiding responsibility
and psychological pain speaking about the other;
they are in between the other and themselves.
Ethics – the other. Responsibility (response +
ability): to be able to respond in terms of actions
(verbal or not).
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Maria José Coracini Unicamp – IEL/DLA