Theses Doctoral

Vague Dwelling: An Archaeology of The Pelham Bay Park Homeless Encampment

Singleton, Courtney

This dissertation is an archaeological investigation of a late 20th century homeless encampment in Pelham Bay Park, New York City. This project examines the relationship between aspects of dwelling and the social status of homelessness within an iconic urban setting in the United States. In contemporary public discourse, the meaning of "homelessness" seems self-evident to most people as a condition defined by lack: a lack of permanence in general and of a permanent dwelling place in particular, a lack of personal possessions and personal relations, and most consequentially, a lack of political status. This research interrogates these assumptions by reading homelessness through the material record that people left behind, of what they did have when they inhabited spaces outside the sanctioned institutions for the "homeless," spaces where people intentionally dwelled and created their own structures of home. This project returns us to the most basic questions in the study of homelessness in the United States: what exactly is homelessness, what does it mean to be homeless, and how are people marked or recognized as homeless within our society? In order to answer these questions, this research explores how boundaries defining homelessness manifest and are articulated within our society.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Crossland, Zoe
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 14, 2020