Righteous Dopefiend By Philippe Bourgois

1001 Words 5 Pages
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 …show more content…
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, …show more content…
Consequences of the Nicaragua revolution saw Bourgois deported back to America during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. This was during a time of government cut backs and criminalisation of consuming narcotics through the war on drugs (World101x, 2014). Whilst writing his dissertation in 1985 Bourgois’ funding was cut and he took this opportunity to move his wife and infant child into East Harlem for cheaper rent. During this time Bourgois started to befriend his neighbours, thus, beginning the participant observation for one of his most recognised ethnographies ‘In Search of Respect: Selling crack in El Barrio’. Bourgois’ marriage broke up around this time and he moved to San Francisco for a job as a lecturer. With homelessness surrounding his everyday life he still burned with a desire to understand the addiction aspect of drug dealing and started to befriend the homeless. Throughout Bourgois’ participant observation in East Harlem he encountered many dangerous situations such as arrest and receiving death threats (Summary, 2009). Personal experience and familiarity with these situations influenced Bourgois’ ability to confidently enter the lives of homeless addicts. Righteous Dopefiend

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