I have succeeded in putting together what is more or less a step-by-step list of instructions describing how to create a brand new Etch installation inside an instance of UML (User Mode Linux - http://www.usermodelinux.org/) -- without ever requiring root access on the host machine.
The instructions are at least partially geared towards a host system that's running Debian, but it should be easily adapted to other distributions.
If you'd like to give it a shot, head on over to http://www.klozoff.ms11.net/uml/adminless-uml-d-i.html
Outstanding UML information
* SKAS0 included in kernel
* Automate startup of multiple UML
* Setting up a secure environment to run UML's with minimum privileges