Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin A. Yelvington, D.Phil.

Committee Member

Daniel H. Lende, Ph.D.

Keywords

archaeology, anthropology, social research, capitalism, subsistence, poverty

Abstract

Modern homelessness is one of the most pressing social and political problems of our time. Several hundred thousand people experience homelessness in the United States each year, and the U.S. Department of Housing, which attempts to count those people, has admitted that their statistics are conservative estimates at best. A recent archaeological study (Zimmerman et al 2010) examining material culture associated with homeless communities in Indianapolis has suggested that those who are considered chronically homeless have generally abandoned wage labor and are instead pursuing urban foraging as a subsistence strategy. In order to better understand the structures of homeless communities, I have expanded this archaeological and ethnographic form of inquiry and used it to present evidence of material culture and foraging patterns among the urban homeless near Tampa. I used participant mapping to obtain 20 individual maps that show each informant’s catchment area, and I performed surface survey of material culture found at camp sites in a four-square-mile area. I found that individuals tend to make homes wherever they are and that much of the material culture reflects what could realistically be expected in any house or apartment. I also found that individuals utilize many resources across the landscape to obtain food, water, clothing, and shelter but must simultaneously remain invisible. This shows that homeless individuals are economic outcasts who must survive outside of yet are still quite dependent on society. Ultimately, this research shows how anthropology can be used to advance a scientific understanding of a specific set of economic processes and how these affect people.