“This book was written late in the North American night, with the rumbling thuds and booming train horns of the nearby rail yard echoing through my windows, reminding me of the train hoppers and gutter punks out there rolling through the darkness.”
In Drift, Jeff Ferrell shows how dislocation and disorientation can become phenomena in their own right. Examining the history of drifting, he situates contemporary drift within today’s economic, legal, and cultural dynamics. He also highlights a distinctly North American form of drift—that of the train-hopping hobo—by tracing the hobo’s legal and political history and by detailing his own immersion in the world of contemporary train-hoppers. Along the way, Ferrell sheds light on the ephemeral intensity of drifting communities and explores the contested politics of drift: the strategies that legal authorities employ to control drifters in the interest of economic development, the social and spatial dislocations that these strategies ironically exacerbate, and the ways in which drifters create their own slippery forms of resistance. Ferrell concludes that drift constitutes a necessary subject of social inquiry and a way of revitalizing social inquiry itself, offering as it does new models for knowing and engaging with the contemporary world.
Jeff Ferrell is Professor of Sociology at Texas Christian University and Visiting Professor of Criminology at the University of Kent. He is the author of Crimes of Style, Tearing Down the Streets, and Empire of Scrounge and the coauthor of Cultural Criminology: An Invitation.
“Jeff Ferrell guides us through a way of thinking about drift that provides an impetus to an imaginative and emancipatory politics. This is a work that transforms despair into hope, dependency into autonomy, and separation into unity. As a catalyst for imagination, Drift is nothing short of brilliant.”—Simon Springer, author of The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Toward Spatial Emancipation
“Beautifully written and sensitively researched, Ferrell’s Drift represents the first socio-criminological attempt to capture the growing sense of emotional and existential precarity now confronting many young people as they attempt to negotiate the complex life worlds of late modernity. Another tour de force by one of criminology’s most engaging and enlightening scholars.”—Keith Hayward, Professor of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
“Beautifully interweaving sociology, biography, and criminology, Drift is Ferrell’s most visionary work to date, tracing the entanglement of motion with every trajectory of post-Fordist life at the horizons of modernity. An inquiry, meditation, analysis, and performance, all through the register of poetics, Drift is a volume in the shape of our times.”—Michelle Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Tennessee
“Making connections across decades, continents, and cultures, this compelling and evocative book attends to migration and movement, as social ‘problem’ and as revolutionary potential. Ferrell finds the commonalities between hobos, gutter punks, dumpster divers, and migrant workers, and argues for a way of thinking that embraces chance and expands the trajectories of criminological knowledge.”—Alison Young, Francine V. McNiff Professor of Criminology, University of Melbourne
“Theoretically rich and beautifully evocative, Drift is a masterful analysis of contemporary dislocations. Ferrell deftly weaves strands of history, political economy, geography, sociology, and cultural studies to offer a deeply contemplative assessment of late modernity through the lens of drift. It’s a rare scholarly work that reads like a novel but packs such a powerful theoretical punch!”—Jody Miller, Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University