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Anthro M186 Final Project

Anthro M186 Final Project - Brandon Christensen 903-992-192...

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Brandon Christensen 903-992-192 Anthropology M186 Prof. Nardi TR 1:00 Homelessness in Westwood: An Outsider’s Perspective Using Cultural Theory, Group Dynamics: Living Systems, and Multi-Agent Modeling Introduction I am homeless. I did not plan very well when I moved down to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz early last month. Or maybe I did. Either way, I acquired my current job fairly recently (about two weeks ago), and as such I have not been able to afford rent for an apartment. I have been surviving off of food supplies and spare change. I estimate that I had at least $30 worth of coins in my car. I have accumulated many cans of (unwanted) chili and chicken noodle soup over the years. Additionally, I am enrolled in a legitimate institution of higher learning, so my status as a homeless person is quite outside the usual demarcation of transience in the United States. I am very poor, but I do not need to beg for survival. I have begged before, when I got into trouble in Spain, so performing the troublesome task does not bother my pride. In addition, this is not my first stunt at being homeless. However, I have always preferred to keep to the shadows when homeless, and have never really felt a part of the homeless community, so pan- handling on the streets of Westwood seemed like an opportune time to earn some much-needed extra cash (and engage in some required fieldwork for class). My current situation provided me a chance to step outside of my survival zone and view the role of the homeless through a radically different light. I still maintained my distance from the traditional homeless community (for reasons I will outline below), but I was able to watch the homeless and their interactions with the non-homeless more closely than I otherwise would. I was able to do so only because I placed myself on the “front lines”, so to speak, and immersed myself completely in the world of homelessness in Westwood. The purpose of my begging – other than to get a few (but much-needed) extra dollars – was three-fold: 1) I wanted to analyze the homeless in their day-to-day interactions with the community, 2) I wanted to see if altruism can be explained through the lens of Cultural Theory (CT), and 3) I wanted to gauge the reactions of how traditional homeless people engage with non-traditional homeless people. Data Collection
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The main method of data collection used in my fieldwork was observation. The reasons for this approach are few, but they do merit a brief explanation. As I mentioned, I am homeless and as such I do need to be careful about what I say and do around others. My car contains all of my belongings and it is currently sitting somewhere safe but illegal. As a result of my precarious situation, I must maintain a fairly constant vigil on my car. If I somehow got into too much trouble due to my antics, I might lose everything that I own.
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