SDF in Perpignan

Combat boots stomp toward me. People begin to look up and stare. Whispers drift in the air as the street people walk by the table of people sitting outside a restaurant. One thing I have observed with the homeless people here in Perpignan is that many of them dress in a punk style.

People who dress punk in the United States tend to have tattoos and piercing. Punks tend to have piercing everywhere— their mouth, nose, eyebrows, and bridge, which is the area between one's eyes. They have their ears gaged to a size that says they don't care what society thinks is appropriate.

Punk attire consists of combat boots laced as high and tight as can be. The pants of a punk tend to be cut in random spots or a neon color plaid that screams, "Look at me." Shirts tend to look dirty, as if they have not been washed for days. And then there is the body odor that often goes along with the look.

Punks tend to be influenced by '70s punk bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. People take pride in the fact that they call themselves punks in the United States.

I like to think at times that I dress and feel like a punk. By piercing my nose and upper lip, gaging my ears and displaying my tattoos so everyone can see, I don't give in to the norms of society. But in Perpignan I feel people stare at me, thinking I belong in the SDF crowd. SDF is a French term that stands for sans domicile fixe, which in English translates to without a fixed home.

Every city around the world has street people. Some cause a bigger problem then others. But one thing about the SDF crowd in Perpignan is that they travel in packs. They all seem to know each other and greet one another with a smile. Their bags unfold across the sidewalks in one big pile. The dogs of the group stretch out across the walkway to rest. When passing these crowds, one has to walk around them, making an arc that outlines the space that belongs to them.

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.