Memories from the Margins: Stories and Images of Urban Homelessness

Main Article Content

Cynthia J. Miller


Among any city’s most wounded bodies and minds are the homeless - individuals who live on the streets, without any formal claim to place. For many of these individuals, the vessels of historical memory are not museums, or classrooms, or library archives, but parks, alleyways, and subway stations. As the numbers of homeless individuals increase dramatically each year, their social, physical, and psychological trauma increasingly characterizes urban life, even as their experiences fall to the margins of the city’s history and future. In response, this paper explores the merging of homeless histories with public history, through two interlocking projects carried out in Boston, Massachusetts - “Histories and Homelessness,” a community-based life-writing project, and “Images from the Streets,” a disposable-camera photography project - outreach and education projects, in which all participants are among the unsheltered homeless who spend their nights on heating grates, under highways, and in ATM kiosks. Together, these projects begin to map and make visible the landscape and memories of homelessness, as they are written and photographed by its inhabitants, and firmly situate these histories within the wider community. Recovering the personal and interpretive histories of homeless individuals, so intimately tied to “place,” creates a powerful strategy for expanding the history of the community to include voices and visions often excluded or left at the margins.

Article Details

How to Cite
Miller, C. J. “Memories from the Margins: Stories and Images of Urban Homelessness”. Linguaculture, vol. 3, no. 1, May 2021, doi:10.2478/v10318-012-0017-3.


Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and

Wang, 1981.

Berger, John. Another Way of Telling. New York: Vintage International, 1982.

Berry, Wendell. What are People For? San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990.

Chalfen, Richard. “A Sociovidistic Approach to Children’s Filmmaking: The

Philadelphia Project” Studies in Visual Communication 7 (1): 2-33, 1981.

Ewald, Wendy. Portraits and Dreams: Photographs and Stories by Children of the

Appalachias. New York: Writers and Readers Publications, Inc, 1975.

--------. Retratos y Suenos/Portraits and Dreams: Photo-graphs by Mexican Children.

Exhibition Catalogue, 1993.

Gauntlett, David. Video Critical: Children, the Environment, and Media Power. London:

John Libbey Media, 1997.

Hubbard, Jim. Shooting Back: A Photographic View of Life by Homeless Children. San

Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1991.

Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. “The Westward Moving House”. Ervin H. Zube, ed.

Landscapes, vol. 2: 8-21, 1953.

Passaro, Joanne. The Unequal Homeless. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Rossi, Peter. Down and Out in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Stringer, Lee. Grand Central Winter. New York: Washington Square Press, 1998.

United States Council of Mayors. Hunger and Homelessness Survey: A Status Report on

Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities. Washington D.C.: City Policy

Associates, 2011.

Vanderstaay, Steven. Street Lives. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992.

Wang, Carolyn and Mary Ann Burris. “Empowerment Through Photovoice: Portraits of

Participation.” Health Education Quarterly 21(2):171-186, 1994.

Worth, Sol and John Adair. Through Navajo Eyes: An Exploration in Film

Communication and Anthropology. Albuquerque, NM: University of New

Mexico Press, 1997