International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type



International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Dr. Marianne Sarkis

Second Reader

Dr. Jude Fernando

Third Reader

Dr. Thomas Kuehne


This thesis is based on ethnographic research conducted on a community of people living in the sewers below the Gara de Nord (Northern Train Station) in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, between 2011 and 2014. The history of former Romanian president, Nicolae Ceaușescu’s policies on population growth and treatment of orphans provide an important background to my research. Before 1989, Ceaușescu’s pro-natalist policies produced thousands of children who were abandoned by their families and had to be housed by the state. They were forced into state orphanages where they faced abuse so horrendous that some fled into sewers. Their sewer community’s “underground law” supported former and current abandoned youth, spurring them to creative ways of reducing health risks. This thesis makes the case that autonomy, or, at least, an individual’s greater control over their person, health, and daily life, determine their decision to live in sewers instead of state centers.


It has been an honor to attend Clark University. I appreciate having the opportunity to serve as Masters of Community and Global Health Science Class Representative for our cohort! This research is based on three years of ethnographic research on a community of people living in tunnels under Romania's capital, Bucharest. I hope you enjoy reading my thesis.



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