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Expert talks about the world of trash scavengers

Sept. 28, 2006

KALAMAZOO--There will definitely be some trash talking going on when an expert on the world of trash scavenging gives a presentation Oct. 5 at Western Michigan University.

Possibly no one knows more about the world of trash picking than Dr. Jeff Ferrell, professor of sociology, criminal justice and anthropology at Texas Christian University. Ferrell's talk, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in Room 210 of the Bernhard Center, is titled "Empire of Scrounge: Inside the Urban Underground of Dumpster Diving, Trash Picking and Street Scavenging" and is free and open to the public.

Ferrell recently spent the better part of a year surviving as an urban trash picker and dumpster diver. Blending free-form survival and ethnographic field research, his experiences revealed a complex world of homeless folks, minimum-wage workers, independent scrap haulers, artists and activists, all crafting alternative modes of existence from others' castoffs. This world offered a bottom-up view of consumer society, global economies, the legal regulation of everyday life and the opportunity for a situational analysis of these phenomena.

In the end, his time as a dumpster diver produced a new sense of self, seducing him into subversive understandings of time, space and identity and providing material for a book: "Empire of Scrounge" published earlier this year by New York University Press.

Ferrell earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to serving as a TCU professor, he is a visiting professor of criminology at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England. He also is the author of "Crimes of Style," "Tearing Down the Streets" and, with Keith Hayward and Jock Young, the forthcoming "Cultural Criminology Today."

Ferrell's talk is the first in the 2006-07 Kercher Symposium and Lecture Series, sponsored by the WMU Department of Sociology.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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