Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Frederick Steier, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Michael LeVan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Funke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D.


communication, community, homelessness, immunity, overheating, precarity


My dissertation focuses on the articulation of the concepts of precarity —i.e., temporary, affective, creative, immaterial and insecure labor—and community in an overheating system. My site of inquiry is homelessness broadly, but more specifically the labor of panhandling and the identity of “the panhandler.” I recognize that primary theorizations of precarity have located it as a problem of labor and economy. Others have looked at it from the sociological domain. My work looks at precarity as diffuse across social, political, and communal systems, but primarily as an effect of the problem of overheating as it manifests at varying levels of scale. Narrowing the global vision of such instability and insecurity to a local landscape—to streets, corners, traffic, the people who occupy infrastructural liminal zones and whose lives are precariously bound to the forces of speed and heat—reveals the critical nature of elemental metaphors. That is to say, if we might accept the thesis that we are in an epoch in which speed and time subsumes space and place, and if speed is another way of talking about heat, about intensities, then communication in the over-sped, overheated system is in dire straights. Precarity, I argue, is not causally linked to the breakdown in economy or the breakdown in affiliative bonds or networks—it does not precede or presage these shutdowns. Rather it is the shutdown. Precarity may now be viewed as the management and organization of social, political, affective, and communal bonds around economic and affiliative insecurities. I use ethnographic data from institutional meetings, and conversations with the key stakeholders at varying levels of scale, as well as textual analyses of local policies, news coverage, and public responses to those texts in order to understand how precarious communicative conditions affect the structuration of community and politics.

Included in

Communication Commons