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Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco Paperback – July 10, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In this compassionate, academic study of homeless men in San Francisco, assistant professor of sociology Gowan recollects and analyzes her years spent in and around the community. Invoking the terms "system-talk," "sin-talk," and "sick-talk" to differentiate the primary lenses through which society views the homeless, Gowan argues that the attempt to address or prevent homelessness becomes difficult when these viewpoints assume contrasting causes, and therefore solutions. While her language and scope remain decidedly academic and heavily theoretical, the individual profiles are intimate and skillfully presented. Throughout the book, gems of dialogue reveal both the impossible world of life on the streets and the vulnerable hearts of the men who inhabit them. After losing his apartment to fire and then falling ill with pneumonia while on the streets, Willie signs on for a "rehabilitation" program, remarking that, "it seems like the main reason they made these places more of a daytime thing… is to get us out of sight." Gowan's own photographs of these men are refreshing for the dignity they capture and portray.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders is spectacular ethnography, fearlessly conducted by a 'small, white English woman' among homeless men in San Francisco's roughest neighborhoods. The big surprise is not the hostility of the police or the shortage of services, but the determination of so many of these men to build a career out of recycling trash. Gowan's respect for her subjects and her willingness to pitch in with the dirtiest of work-dumpster diving, for example-make this a gripping read as well as a powerful call to reassess how America treats its most despised and marginal people." —Barbara Ehrenreich
"This elegantly written and clearly analyzed long-term ethnography of homelessness takes off where Righteous Dopefiend ends. Teresa Gowan offers the reader a comprehensive analysis of the full range of survival strategies found on the streets of San Francisco at the turn of the 21st century: from dumpster divers, recyclers, panhandlers, and triumphantly oppositional petty thieves who pursue heroin and/or crack by all means necessary, to self-blaming addicts bemoaning their failure to adhere to self-help sobriety regimens." —Philippe Bourgois, author of In Search of Respect and Righteous Dopefiend
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Top customer reviews
Additional comments to the casual reader: As mentioned, this book uses little jargon and is enjoyable to read. You will be able to move through the text without becoming bored or stuck on dry scholarly debates.
Additional comments to other ethnographers and scholars studying culture: This book advances the discussion surrounding the culture of poverty anxiety generated by the Moynihan report. It also could be viewed as a methodological exemplar of how to use discourse analysis with ethnographic data. It is the first I've seen using this approach, but as any good approach, I'm sure it won't be the last.
What I got was a technacal account of what a lot of tecknacal jabber . I couldn't make head nor tails of and I still haven't learned more about the whos and whys of these people.