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Within reach: An ethnographic study of homeless outreach in Manhattan

Williams, Joseph 2022. Within reach: An ethnographic study of homeless outreach in Manhattan. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis contains the details, aims, questions raised, objectives, findings, and the contribution, of an ethnographic study into the everyday practices of outreach workers in Manhattan, New York. The study is informed by, and in keeping with, sociological topics and practices of research conduct. More precisely, this thesis seeks to attend to the sociological exploration and description of street homelessness and the practices of those who attempt to encounter it. Within the follow pages is an exploration of existing literature, a discussion of methodology (both practical and conceptual), followed by a presentation of findings, observations, and an accompanying sociological-analytical commentary. The contribution of this thesis is to consider these things together as a practical methodological apparatus for the assembly, and intelligibility, of a social issue, homelessness. This is in addition, and a response, to a long-standing tradition of sociological and anthropological study of homeless populations and the services that are provided for them. The intention being to explore how a ‘hard-to-find’, and hard to define, social category might be accurately and usefully studied and understood. The thesis draws on symbolic interactionist and ethnomethodological traditions to explore how the meaning and subject position of homelessness is constituted. This is done via the close detailing of the encounters between outreach workers and those in need of their services, presented as three portraits of outreach work. A discussion is put forward of how paying attention to these details (much of which are counterintuitive and challenge assumptions about street homelessness) can reveal the order through which homelessness is made sense of, how it is generated as a category, made detectable, and addressed. In doing this, the thesis speaks to the instability of homelessness as a category, showing how members of society adapt to this (looking for signs and noticing what is out of place). Demonstrated here is that to understand homelessness, proximity to it is required, sensitivities need be developed, and a longstanding engagement reveals the complexity and humanity amongst those involved.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 November 2022
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 03:58

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