Empire of Scrounge: Inside the Urban Underground of Dumpster Diving, Trash Picking, and Street Scavenging Paperback – Dec 1 2005
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"By turns moving, funny, and shocking. 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 Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America "Outstandingly well written, gripping, and hugely entertaining. Destined to become a classic, this anarchy of consumerism turns one man's 'trash' into a treasure: an insightful, colorful, imaginative and playful window on the underground economy of scavenging for a living among other people's cast offs." -Stuart Henry, co-author of Essential Criminology "A firecracker of a book. Prepare yourself for total immersion. It reads like Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell with a sense of fun; it has all the detail and magic of James Agee. A pleasure to read: anarchic, irreverent and totally relevant."-Jock Young,co-editor of The New Politics of Crime and Punishment "In Empire of Scrounge, Jeff Ferrell serves as an unassuming guide into the netherworld of our own garbage. Ferrell suggests that such urban prospecting is possibly far more than simple recycling-it is a form of politics that consciously opts out of a vapid consumer culture. It's a must read!" -Meda Chesney-Lind, co-editor of Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment "I love this book! It's engaging, witty, and jarring-every page is filled with new treasures and powerful analyses of our throwaway culture. Ferrell opens a rare and vivid window on the raw aftermath of our society's conspicuous consumption and wasteful behavior, and he offers real possibilities for reflection, meditation, and redemption." -David Naguib, author of Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago
About the Author
Jeff Ferrell is Professor in the department of sociology, criminal justice, and anthropology at Texas Christian University and Visiting Professor of Criminology at the University of Kent, UK. He is the author of Tearing Down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy, and the editor of NYU's Alternative Criminology Series.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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'"
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.
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.
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.