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Cast Aside: Boredom, Downward Mobility, and Homelessness in Post-Communist Bucharest

By Bruce O'Neill

Cite As:
O’Neill, Bruce. 2014. “Cast Aside: Boredom, Downward Mobility, and Homelessness in Post-Communist Bucharest”. Cultural Anthropology 29 (1):8-31.


The homeless, in post-Communist Bucharest, Romania, are bored. They describe themselves as bored all of the time. Drawing upon nearly three years of ethnographic fieldwork that moves between Bucharest’s homeless shelters and squatter camps, day centers and public parks, this article approaches the homeless’s boredom as an everyday affect structured by the politics of consumption in post-communist Bucharest. At the center of this study sits not simply the inability to consume but also the feeling of being cast aside, of being downwardly mobile in a neoliberal era of supposed ascent. In an increasingly consumer-driven society, boredom, I argue, is an affective state that registers within the modality of time the newly homeless’s expulsion to the margins of the city. In this sense, boredom is a persistent form of social suffering made possible by a crisis-generated shift in the global economy, one that has forced tens of millions of people the world over to come to terms with diminished economic capacities.


boredom; urban homelessness; downward mobility; everyday affect; Romania