Margaret Woodruff

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Irvine, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10640

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Woodruff, Margaret (California, Irvine, U. of) "Productive Encounters: Bureaucracy, Dispossession, and Discourse of Unhoused LA"

Contemporary legal and political advocacy and regulatory oversight concerning the homelessness crisis–recently declared an emergency in Los Angeles–relies on a variety of methods and technologies that require meeting the unhoused where they live. Formal or informal, it is through these encounters with both the persons and places that constitute homeless encampments that certain kinds of knowledge relevant to their health, welfare, rights and regulation are produced. Encounters are thus a tool of advocacy, a technology of governance, and a mode of knowledge production. My comparative, multi-site project uses methods such as participant observation (as an attorney and researcher), surveys, interviews, and textual analysis to investigate interpretive practices of encounters with unhoused Los Angelenos. Drawing from scholarship on bureaucracy, legal language and knowledge, critical legal geography, and phenomenology, I ask: how does the data collected during field encounters become part of a record that supports varied responses to homelessness from differently situated institutions and actors? How are narratives about field encounters informed by the legal logics governing the place of the encounter? How do narratives about encounters with unhoused people shape perceptions of public space and possibilities of identity formation and belonging?