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MAGH Speaker Series: “An Anthropology of Vehicle Residency in Seattle”

Posted: 10/24/2017 (Local Events)

“An Anthropology of Vehicle Residency in Seattle”
Graham Pruss, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
3:30-4:50 PM
Kane Hall, Room 110

Abstract: Seattle has the third largest unhoused population in the US – almost half of these people, 42%, sleep in a car, truck, or RV. Despite the local prevalence of vehicle residency for over a decade, vehicle residencies are outside the scope of many advocacy or “anti-sweeps” protection efforts, and there are few programs to help stabilize this nuanced population. Moreover, many vehicle residents consider their vehicle a home, reject a “homeless” identity as well as related “homeless” services, and separate themselves from other “unsheltered” people who occupy public space. Graham Pruss, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the UW Department of Anthropology, focuses on the increasing mobile survival behavior of vehicle residency from an ethnoarchaeological perspective. Mr. Pruss uses participant observation, spatial mapping, legal review, as well as ethnography to tell the story of vehicle residency in Seattle, and connect people who use nomadic survival behaviors to an ancient, cross-cultural history of sedentarist bias. Graham deconstructs mundane parking or zoning laws alongside social welfare policies, to show how the contemporary use of nomadic behaviors in a sedentary world subjects vehicle residents to the widespread criminalization of their primary survival strategy and their disaffiliation from social support.

Graham Pruss is the Executive Director of WeCount and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Washington. Graham’s research focuses on vehicle residency, the largest category of Seattle’s unsheltered population (36% in 2016) as well as one of the fastest growing segments of house-lessness across the US. Mr. Pruss led the Vehicle Residency Research Program at Seattle University, and has helped connect over one thousand people with social services through his weekly volunteer community meals and employment as Seattle’s only ‘outreach specialist’ for vehicle residents. Graham’s passion for this work comes from his personal experiences with homelessness as a youth, dependence on state welfare and food programs as a teenage parent, as well as the support of publicly-funded services and educational opportunities that empowered personal development through his life.

Next speaker: November 1 – Daniel Hoffman, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington

“The Trouble with Circles: Monrovia’s Ebola Quarantine and the Future of Armed Humanitarianism”


For more information about the MAGH speaker series, please contact coordinator Marieke van Eijk (



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Date: 10/25/2017

Time: 3:30-4:50 PM

Location: Kane Hall, Room 110