Eli Kozin’s article, “Homelessness and Poverty: An Ethnographic Journey onto the Streets of Durham,” provides an intimate perspective on homelessness. The article is well researched—Kozin references numerous studies highlighting the scope of the issue—but at the same deeply personal, relying heavily on individual accounts to send a message. He challenges the public perception that homelessness is a consequence of laziness by providing evidence that social determinants and the American economic system are to blame. Throughout the article he merges his own experiences among the homeless in Durham with local and national studies on homelessness, using forthright tone to lay bare the need for social change.
The organization of the paper is its most effective tool. Kozin is a master of argument, evoking appeals to pathos, ethos, and logos, in a systematic fashion. He begins with mini-biographies of two homeless men, inducing the sympathies of the reader. He then details his own experiment to recreate homelessness, establishing his credibility as a writer with an intimate understanding of the issue. Finally he identifies six components of homelessness in a logical fashion, utilizing scholarly sources to augment his position. The last two sentences of the final paragraph serve to illustrate his purpose. In them he explains that his article is intended to bring about discourse that will eventually effect change.
The self-stated motive of Deliberations is to highlight the work of authors who take academic writing beyond the confines of an institution and engage with the world. “Homelessness and Poverty” exemplifies this mission; it is simultaneously informative and inspiring, exhibiting depth of research while remaining accessible to the public. Kozin’s message itself is an appeal not only to academics, but to the American people in general. He advocates a transformation in the public attitude towards homelessness, calling for a shift from an apathetic avoidance of the issue to direct discussion and confrontation.
The characteristics of Kozin’s work are similar to the goals of our major writing projects. He engages with the work of others, citing studies to support his position, just as we did in MP1 and MP2. Kozin is particularly effective in articulating a position—he makes it clear that the purpose of his paper is to bring about social reform. Likewise with MP2, we were required to utilize scholarly literature to formulate a thesis on a specific aspect of ocean acidification. Many people chose to articulate a position on the need for policy reform in much the same way as Kozin. Because our projects were situated in a different context, however, certain aspects of our writing would be inappropriate in a Deliberations’ essay. While our articles were directed at the readership of scientific journals, Deliberations emphasizes speaking to a wider audience. The theme of this year’s edition of Deliberations, “Thinking Globally, Writing Locally,” does not exactly coincide with the goals of our Writing 20 course. The topic of ocean acidification requires one to write globally, and it involves a different set of factors from the acidification of local water sources. Despite the difference in focus, it is clear that Kozin went through a similar process of researching, workshopping, revising, and editing that is central to the development of our work.
Although the purpose of Kozin’s article was to demystify homelessness, we can learn just as much from the manner in which he develops his position. While the message of many research papers is obfuscated by jargon and therefore inaccessible to the public, Kozin engages a broad audience while maintaining academic professionalism. As aspiring writers, we strive to achieve the same level of clarity and conciseness Kozin demonstrates in articulating his thesis.