Righteous Dopefiend / Edition 1

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"Based on over a decade of field research, Righteous Dopefiend is a searing portrait of the lives of homeless injection drug users in San Francisco and an analysis of the powerful forces that shape their lives. ...This book brings into our visual and moral field the plight of those whom we have condemned to the margins, documenting the struggle that is the condition of their daily existence and exploring the social structures that enforce their suffering." —Angela Garcia, The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along the Rio Grande

"Calling this book ethnography would be like calling The Wire a cop show: what comes roaring out of its pages is almost as visceral and devastating as spending a night in 'the hole' itself."—Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

"Plunge beneath the surface of America's no-man's lands. Find in the dead-end alleyways, storage lots, and overgrown embankments the terrifying but strangely ordered world of homeless heroin injectors. This book will test your cultural relativism to destruction, but along the way you will learn a great deal about destitution, about homelessness, about addiction, and about violence at all levels. These dopefiends are 'made in America'."—Paul Willis, author of Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs, and co-founding editor of Ethnography

"Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg provide a riveting narrative of the daily struggles for survival of homeless people with a physical and emotional addiction to heroin. The authors' poignant account of these experiences features sophisticated analytic themes that enable them insightfully to integrate discussions of agency and moral responsibility on the part of homeless addicts with an analysis of the powerful structural forces that shape the addicts' lives. Righteous Dopefiend is a must-read."—William Julius Wilson, author of More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City

“Bourgois and Schonberg deliver luminous images and intimate portraits of unforgettable Dickensian characters—a host of late-modern hobos, hustlers, dumpster divers, and sweet-talking jivers—whose addiction consigns them to lives of public ignominy and private pleasures transacted under the concrete freeway overpasses of a totally indifferent San Francisco. This tough book is a must-read for all.”—Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Death Without Weeping

“If Pierre Bourdieu, George Orwell, and Walker Evans had met in a homeless encampment under a San Francisco highway, they could not have produced a more penetrating portrait of America's urban outcasts than Righteous Dopefiend. Fusing ethnography, photography, and social theory, Bourgois and Schonberg take the reader on the frantic roller coaster ride of daily subsistence among a clique of indigent heroin addicts. This searing anthropology of everyday violence in the underbelly of the American metropolis will challenge social scientists and public health experts, stun lay readers, and shame public officials oblivious to the social dereliction their failed policies are spawning.”—Loïc Wacquant, author of Urban Outcasts and Punishing the Poor

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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer - Elijah Anderson

“One of the most original and important works of its kind. . . . A pathbreaking photo-ethnography, powerful in presentation, content and scope. . . . A must-read, [it] will rock the world of the sheltered middle class and shed new light on the pervasive structural inequalities plaguing contemporary society.”
Publishers Weekly

In this gritty ethnography exploring the world of San Francisco's homeless heroin addicts, Bourgois, anthropology and community medicine professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Schonberg, a photographer and graduate student in medical anthropology, draw on a decade immersed in this subculture to eloquently elaborate on the survival techniques and intimate lives of black and white addicts who live in self-made communities and work the economic fringes for survival. The authors explore racial boundaries and crossings, love stories, family relations, parenting, histories of childhood abuse, as well as the constant work of navigating hostile police enforcement, exploitative and helpful business owners, overburdened medical services and social service bureaucracies. The book details the gruesome material toll of addiction, infection and homelessness and the risks of ongoing personal and institutional violence. Bourgois and Schonberg create a deeply nuanced picture of a population that cannot escape social reprobation, but deserves social inclusion. Schonberg's photographs capture the scars of addiction, the social bonds between romantic pairs and drug-running partners and the concerted efforts at domesticity without a domicile. The collage of case studies, field notes, personal narratives and photography is nothing short of enthralling. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Get this book and read it. . . . A hell of a story. . . . These people walk by you every day and should not remain invisible.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“This book offers as complete and disturbing a view as can be had of just how awful and intractable street life in San Francisco can get.”

“The authors dare you to ignore the subculture in their field notes and arresting black-and-white images, urging that our failed social systems need repairing and we cannot continue to let these outliers remain invisible.”

Arena Magazine - Grazyna Zajdow

“Truly remarkable book.”
Zocalo (The Public Square Blog)

“Powerfully candid.”
Roof Magazine

“With a combination of photographs, dialogue, field notes and critical theory, the book provides a detailed analysis of the social structure of an underground society in contemporary America.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520254985
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2009
  • Series: California Series in Public Anthropology Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 121,187
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Philippe Bourgois is Richard Perry University Professor of Anthropology and Family and Community Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Jeff Schonberg is a photographer and a graduate student in medical anthropology at the University of California, San Francisco.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Theory of Lumpen Abuse

1. Intimate Apartheid
2. Falling in Love
3. A Community of Addicted Bodies
4. Childhoods
5. Making Money
6. Parenting
7. Male Love
8. Everyday Addicts
9. Treatment

Conclusion: Critically Applied Public Anthropology
Notes on the Photographs

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    Wouldn't open on Nook or any Nook App. Waste of money. And now I

    Wouldn't open on Nook or any Nook App. Waste of money. And now I need it for school and don't have it.

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