Unroofed, Uprooted, and Unapologetic: Homelessness in Washington D.C. from 1890-1930

Author(s): Aaron J Howe

Year: 2018


Homelessness is a historically contingent condition of the Capitalist Mode of Production. Yet, it is often constructed as a contemporary problem arising from individual failures and misfortunes. Historically, homelessness has proven to be a fluid category, defying institutional definitions and mitigative strategies. In this paper, I explore the socio-economic phenomena of homelessness in Washington D.C. from ca. 1890-1930. Public and private institutions dedicated to converting the homeless into normative capitalist agents dotted the Progressive Era landscape. Focusing on occupied spaces underneath overpasses, between alleys, and in wooded areas, I attempt to move beyond institutional categorizations that frequently frame research on homelessness. These alternative landscapes represent the material persistence of those who live and work at the edges of our economic system. Refusing to be defined by the needs of capital, these encampments offer alternative vantage points from which to understand homelessness that move away from explanations of individual ineptitude.

Cite this Record

Unroofed, Uprooted, and Unapologetic: Homelessness in Washington D.C. from 1890-1930. Aaron J Howe. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2018 ( tDAR id: 441355)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 456