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Empire of Scrounge: Inside the Urban Underground of Dumpster Diving, Trash Picking, and Street Scavenging Paperback – Dec 1 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: New York Univ Pr (Dec 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780814727386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814727386
  • ASIN: 0814727387
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 21 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #709,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Patrolling the neighborhoods of central Fort Worth, sorting through trash piles, exploring dumpsters, scanning the streets and the gutters for items lost or discarded, I gathered the city's degraded bounty, then returned home to sort and catalogue the take." - From the Introduction "Jeff Ferrell's rich portrait of the urban underclass is by turns moving, funny, and shocking, and recalls such classics as Henry Mayhew's description of the street life of Victorian London. Particularly sobering are the book's implications for modern consumer life, and the incomprehensible amounts of junk, waste and surplus generated by a modern city." - Philip Jenkins, author of Darkening Vision: How America Retreated from the 1960s"

About the Author

Jeff Ferrell is professor in the department of sociology, criminal justice, and anthropology at Texas Christian University and is the author of Tearing Down The Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy. He is the editor of NYU's Alternative Criminology Series.

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Format: Paperback
I have collected other people's discards all my life; in recent years, I've begun to remake architectural salvage into art and furniture. Only in the past year or two have I begun reading seriously about salvage: I was surprised to discover an entire sub-culture of salvagers and an expanding literature focused on them.
Some people salvage for fun (and sometimes profit); others do it because they have no other choice. Jeff Ferrell's 'Empire of Scrounge' is written at the interface of these two worlds. Ferrell himself salvages out of habit and as a kind of living experiment; during his excursions he encounters many people who salvage to obtain the necessities of life. It is these encounters that make Ferrell's book interesting, particularly his recounting of conversations at curb-side or at the salvage yard where many 'emperors of scrounge' sell hard salvaged goods for harder cash.
Ferrell's interesting narrative is undone, in part, by his efforts to analyse the 'empire of scrounge'. As a criminologist, he attempts to show how efforts to regulate and even criminalize acts of salvage lead to convergence between the marginal and the outlawed. However, I find his argument thinly pedantic and extraneous. Ferrell could have written a perfectly good book without such diversions. At the same time, the book is marred by poor editing and repetitive descriptions. Ordinarily I love to read lists of the things people find: in contrast, Ferrell's descriptions actually make salvage seem rather boring and even unproductive (any experienced scavenger knows well that salvaging is neither). Although in many ways Empire of Scrounge is a mediocre book, it does have several good chapters.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Found This Book Under a Heap of Trash Jan. 3 2006
By busmun - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ha! Just kidding, found it under the Christmas tree where my wife placed it, but someday some lucky scrounger will find it(not my copy) in a used bookstore Dumpster and it will smite them upon the pate with the serendipidous force of a Zen koan.

It's a philosophical look at a life lived on the margins of society, with great attention paid to the ambiguities of public/private property, the ever changing cultural definition of criminal behavior/thriftiness.

I loved the section where the author discussed the flip side of the canard,"Time is money." If you opt out of the commercial world of money and consumerism then the pace of your life slows way down and you become firmly rooted in the here and now.

Along the way Ferrell introduces the reader to some very savy scroungers. Listen to Leslie Hemstreet of Chadron Nebraska:

"There's nothing that makes you feel a temporary merging of the parallel universes more than being a vegetarian driving around with a dead deer on top of your truck, getting kudos from yokels for poaching. We really won the admiration of those with whom we were able to share the truth. 'Poaching? Hell no. Roadkill'"
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Interesting read June 6 2007
By Denvergirlie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book rather interesting and a bit depressing. His writing style was very different and honestly had a very difficult time making it through the first two chapters but eased into by the third.

Amazing eye opening discussion on waste in America.

I have foraged a bit for discarded items and am constantly amazed at the amount of waste that people create. Perfectly good items that are just tossed. Books, clothing, tools, furnishings, etc are tossed on a daily basis, on it's was to a landfill. What's sad is that many Americans are even unwilling to donate these items to a charity because it's just too much effort.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent first-hand experience in the dry consumer wasteland Feb. 24 2010
By dex3703 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I discovered this book while I was visiting Fort Worth in December of 2005, after a job had ended and I made my default pilgrimage to see my parents. During those strange days of bright warmth unusual even for Texas, I drove streets and haunts Ferrell describes with piquant accuracy: the sheet metal fences of Rosedale's scrap metal yards, the deep green live oak shade of middle-moneyed Ridglea and Arlington Heights, the gravel alleys and nondescript shacks of urban backyards--one of which hid his illegal recycling operation under pecan trees. While I was in college I lived some of this life, picking up abandoned car batteries and random lumps of metal, dumping rancid soda out of the cans left in the lone recycling barrel I set up at my college, even fishing appliances out of creeks--hauling it all to those same metal yards for respectable pocket money.

Ferrell's opening chapters clearly appeal to academic readers, describing the social relationships between waste, the higher social orders that discard it, and the proles and lower that rely on it for income. But the heart of the book is his account of becoming a scrounger. He moves outside his privileged Texas Christian University position to ride a bicycle through Fort Worth's neighborhoods, where he learns to surreptitiously paw trash. That strange, pregnant pause when a homeowner finds him digging through a curbside pile, and then offers to bring out even more and better stuff, is both a sublime human moment and an examination of our relationships to each other and to physical things, through the lens of class.

Ferrell's questions and judgments are even and respectable, but no less challenging because of it. Why must he hide his backyard recycling operation from city code enforcement, when it reduces the trash doomed to landfills, and saves perfectly good stuff? What does it say about our society that the city government will pay a nickel bounty on abandoned bottles and cans, thus recruiting the homeless as cheap cleanup labor?

In the end, Ferrell's account of scavenging, our relationship to stuff and our ease in parting with it, and the distance we maintain from those sustained on it, leaves the reader to ask who we are and who we are becoming. As I wonder what happened to the Yankee thrift of my grandparents and how the country will ever pay its many debts, I am there with Ferrell, pulling out treasure, confused by its designation as trash.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Has some good parts but some just seem like filler. Jan. 12 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book covers an interesting subject and had some interesting parts. There were plenty of photos in the book that seemed odd to me. The book is set in Fort Worth and the book is full of photos of people in New York and I don't really know why. I wouldn't recommend this to the average person, but if the subject interest you, you might find it interesting. I likee when he talked about his scrounging and the people he met and the things he found. I found the philosophical flights of fancy a little boring to be honest.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Very Articulate Approach to Encouraging Greener Behavior Sept. 9 2007
By Scrounger Mama - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I just heard this author on the radio, and am so pleased he articluates many different aspects of "RE-USE", or whatever word you are comfortable with. He describes how re-using things slowed down his life, and that is a tricky thing to accept, when we are all so efficiently scheduled and have worked out the dollar-to-effort-expended formula. it's cheaper to throw it away and buy new, but perhaps we are using the wrong formula now. He mentions how his "ego", or his desires are altered by being presented with objects he might not have chosen on his own.
You have to pick somewhere to start (the 3 R's), in an attempt to slow down your part in the destruction of the earth, lower your carbon footprint, etc, ,and find a way that feels good to you. I have been a scrounger for 20 years, (NYC, SF, Paris, Iowa, Berkeley) , and my squeamish friends who stood by in embarassment are now starting to see the beauty of finding something fabulous and continuing that object onwards to it's (new) rightful owner.


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