Andrea Lopez

Publication Date

Spring 12-1-2014


This dissertation examines a subset of urban poor women who live at the nexus of poverty and housing instability and who are exposed to multiple forms of violence and intense bodily suffering. I conducted two years of ethnographic research with a cohort of unstably housed women who have long histories of illicit drug use and who cycle between multiple single room occupancy hotels in two San Francisco neighborhoods. In this dissertation, I take as my analytic object the examination of the key institutional sites (what I call the local geography of hypermarginality) and the strategies for intervention deployed by the state in an attempt to ameliorate the conditions of extreme poverty. This dissertation has three central findings. First, even in a relatively rich resource context such as San Francisco, significant structural deficiencies and grave fragmentation of services limit the effectiveness of well-intentioned interventions. Second, institutional interventions administered by the left hand of the state,' even as they draw on compassionate principles, are contradictory in nature and simultaneously deploy compassion and care with punitive and moralistic logics. Finally, this configuration results in a situation where women's hypermarginality is reinforced by the institutions tasked with helping them.'


poverty, drug use, hypermarginality, the state

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Field, Les

Second Advisor

Lamphere, Louise

First Committee Member (Chair)

Willging, Catie

Second Committee Member

Bourgois, Philippe

Third Committee Member


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