Righteous Dopefiend Summary

Decent Essays
Philippe Bourgois is an Anthropologist who, through extensive long-term participant observation, throws himself into the underbelly of contemporary American society. The dark, disturbing themes within his reality filled photo-ethnography, Righteous Dopefiend, attracted a wide audience. In ‘Righteous Dopefiend’ Bourgois and his research assistant Jeff Schonberg followed the lives of 24 homeless heroin injectors and crack smokers in San Francisco over a period of 12 years. The ethnography was written to shed light on the controversial topics of poverty, addiction and homelessness, and to reveal how political and social structures are responsible for such a destructive part of society. Bourgois’ ethnographies boast strong influence of both political-economy and interpretative anthropology. I argue that Bourgois writes his ethnographies with the long-term goal to better the lives of those he is writing about. He does this by understanding the people and suggesting various policies.
Growing up on the Upper East Side of New York, Bourgois saw first-hand the racial inner-city segregation. In an interview Bourgois (World101x, 2014) mentions that his father, a French-born immigrant, was confused and
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Bourgois also calls upon the earlier works and theories of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and Pierre Bourdieu as he develops the idea of “lumpen abuse under neoliberalism” in his ethnography (Summary, 2009). Bourgois’ thorough analysis of unequal powers and the complex interactions within the group reflects Wolf’s political-economy anthropological style. Wolf’s influence on anthropology is clearly seen in Bourgois’ ethnographies as they are also “empirically realistic, analytically penetrating” and offer “socially critical depictions of the people studied and represented” (Heyman,

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