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Empire of Scrounge: Inside the Urban Underground of Dumpster Diving, Trash Picking, and Street Scavenging

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  49 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
In December of 2001 Jeff Ferrell quit his job as tenured professor, moved back to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, and, with a place to live but no real income, began an eight-month odyssey of essentially living off of the street. Empire of Scrounge tells the story of this unusual journey into the often illicit worlds of scrounging, recycling, and second-hand living. Exi ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by New York University Press (first published 2005)
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Oct 17, 2007 Jill rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book, but I can't seem to get through it, and I am going to turn it back into the library without finishing it. For some reason, its style is just not grabbing me.
Mar 26, 2008 Jon rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NOODY!!
Shelves: read-2008

I have to be honest up front that I in fact did not actually read this book in it's entirety, but I did read just over half completely and then skimmed most of the rest. Unfortunately, it was just such a pointless book that I could take no more of it! The format, which is at first engaging, quickly becomes tiresome, as it is just a continual string of 1 page anecdotal stories of trash that he found or people that he avoided contact wit
Apr 23, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
One of the cross references for cataloging this book is rag pickers. I like that and the idea behind rag pickers. Rag pickers historically, made a living from the detritus of others and were very low on the social scale. Jeff Ferrell, a professor, albeit a rag picker, a dumpster diver, and a guy who lives off of the stuff other people leave behind brings sustainable living into sharp focus. Some might call him a nut, but I think of him as one of the real sustainable livers. He furnishes his hous ...more
Amy Arsenault
Apr 16, 2014 Amy Arsenault rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-on
Couldn't finish this. I love and sometimes practice the subject matter but I couldn't past page ten of this book. It was boring and repetitive and couldn't decide between a text book style voice or a personal one.
Lance Worth
Oct 03, 2012 Lance Worth rated it it was amazing
Now this is an ethnography! He really got in there and lived it. Granted, he was a little self righteous... but he rendered visible a life most often invisible. When he does repeat himself, he does so from different angles that increase an outsiders comprehension of the subject (think, the blind men and the elephant).

When we studied this book in my program at Evergreen, the reactions were almost entirely sorted along class lines. Many of the upper middle class students were very "checked out" o
Rogue Reader
Dec 10, 2015 Rogue Reader rated it liked it
Shelves: consumerism
The guy loses his job and determines that he'll research and write an ethnography of dumpster diving and trash. He becomes one with his objects. Amazing.
Feb 02, 2009 Joe rated it it was ok
I only recommend this book if you have a very strong interest in the subject matter. At first I thought that a really good editor could smooth out the rough patches, delete the abundance of lists, and remove the repetition of anecdotes. But really what this book needs is a wholesale rewrite.

The most interesting pieces are the interactions with people while scrounging, and the more documentary storytelling in the chapter on a city recycling program.

I'm not sorry I checked this book out from the
Apr 30, 2008 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookstore-coop
This is about a guy who quits his academic job mid semester and decides he is going to return to Fort Worth and try to live on only what he could find on the street. Dude says he was living with some one who had a minimum wage job. This book has pictures and art the Dude makes with the stuff he finds. He makes lists of the stiff he finds and how he has to store it. He rides around town on a scrounged bike, with scrounged tools and he collects stuff—some stuff he sells on Ebay and he will collect ...more
"It's true, I realized, necessity is the mother of invention; it's a hard-worked wellspring of personal creativity and innovation. . .when nothing of yourself is needed, when everything is bought new and delivered complete, convenience becomes the mother of existential complacency." - Jeff Ferrell

This quote summarizes this fantastic book - fantastic.
Chris Miller
Oct 10, 2013 Chris Miller rated it it was ok
Written like a text book. If this book was edited differently, the content could have jumped to life.
Mar 25, 2012 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Big YAWN...I really wanted this book to be interesting, but it was just so hard to keep reading.
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Jeff Ferrell is Professor of Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University. His books include Crimes of Style: Urban Graffiti and The Politics of Criminology. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
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