Callous Objects unearths cases in which cities push homeless people out of public spaces through a combination of policy and strategic design. Robert Rosenberger examines such commonplace devices as garbage cans, fences, signage, and benches—all of which reveal political agendas beneath the surface. Such objects have evolved, through a confluence of design and law, to be open to some uses and closed to others, but always capable of participating in collective ends on a large scale. Rosenberger brings together ideas from the philosophy of technology, social theory, and feminist epistemology to spotlight the widespread anti-homeless ideology built into our communities and enacted in law.
Robert Rosenberger will present some ideas from Callous Objects, which identifies and criticizes a pervasive anti-homeless agenda instantiated in law and public-space design. We’ll review instances of “hostile architecture,” public-space objects that have been designed to discriminate against the unhoused, from spikes set into ledges, to armrests added to benches to deter sleeping. And with some ideas from the philosophy of technology and feminist theory, we’ll consider ways think about the prejudices that are built into the bricks and ironwork and security cameras of our cities. Special guest Chad Kautzer will relate Rosenberger’s work to the concept of “dys-appearance,” which refers to the way bodies are made visible through disabling social norms, practices, and environments. Chronic lack of shelter and lack of access to private facilities often produce dys-appearance, as private lives are forced into public spaces increasingly and intentionally built to render those lives “unfit”.
Robert Rosenberger is associate professor of philosophy in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He works in the field of the philosophy of technology, studying topics such as smartphone driving impairment, Mars imaging, and the politics of the public-space design. He is the author of Callous Objects: Designs Against the Homeless (Minnesota, 2017), co-editor of Postphenomenological Investigations (Lexington, 2015), editor of Philosophy of Science: 5 Questions (2010, Automatic/VIP), and has written for the Atlantic, Slate, and other public venues.
Chad Kautzer is associate professor of philosophy at Lehigh University. He is the author of Radical Philosophy: An Introduction (Routledge 2016) and coeditor of Pragmatism, Nation, and Race: Community in the Age of Empire (Indiana, 2009). He has translated works by Walter Benjamin and Axel Honneth, interviewed Angela Y. Davis and David Harvey, and curated an international art exhibition on homelessness and social recognition at RedLine Denver.