Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Carla M. Jones

Second Advisor

Donna Goldstein

Third Advisor

Jeff Maskovsky

Fourth Advisor

J. Terrence McCabe

Fifth Advisor

L. Kaifa Roland


How does the symbolic transference of material ruination onto mobile-homeowners produce impermanence, social precarity, and financial risk? Achieving the “American dream” of upward class mobility, self-actualization, and respect through hard work is, for most Americans, materialized through homeownership. As markers of social status however, not all homes are created equal. Advertised as the American dream “on a budget,” manufactured homes—also referred to as mobile homes or trailers—represent an economical alternative to conventional homeownership, and as such meet a critical demand for affordable family housing in the United States. However, as occupants of nontraditional housing, mobile-homeowners are denied the legal and financial benefits of homeownership due to widespread cultural disdain for “trailer trash.” Situated in post-recession Lincoln, Nebraska, a “recession winner” with the highest reported rates of resident happiness and wellbeing in the United States, this dissertation explores the everyday reproduction of housing precarity for urban mobile home community (MHC) residents threatened with displacement due to redevelopment and revitalization. Drawing on 28 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in five MHC neighborhoods, my research illustrates how housing form mediates social expectations for ruination and respectability. By considering the complexity of housing—as shelter, the symbolic realm of the domestic, or as a financial vehicle for upward mobility—this project analyzes the social costs of abjection and contested belonging in aesthetics, finances, and stigma mitigation techniques for an estimated six to eight million mobile-homeowners living in 40,000 MHCs nationwide.