Righteous Dopefiend

Righteous Dopefiend

Philippe Bourgois
Jeff Schonberg
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 392
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pn5bs
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  • Book Info
    Righteous Dopefiend
    Book Description:

    This powerful study immerses the reader in the world of homelessness and drug addiction in the contemporary United States. For over a decade Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg followed a social network of two dozen heroin injectors and crack smokers on the streets of San Francisco, accompanying them as they scrambled to generate income through burglary, panhandling, recycling, and day labor.Righteous Dopefiendinterweaves stunning black-and-white photographs with vivid dialogue, detailed field notes, and critical theoretical analysis. Its gripping narrative develops a cast of characters around the themes of violence, race relations, sexuality, family trauma, embodied suffering, social inequality, and power relations. The result is a dispassionate chronicle of survival, loss, caring, and hope rooted in the addicts' determination to hang on for one more day and one more "fix" through a "moral economy of sharing" that precariously balances mutual solidarity and interpersonal betrayal.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94331-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[xxix])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xxx-xxxi)
  3. Introduction: A Theory of Abuse
    (pp. 1-23)

    From November 1994 through December 2006, we became part of the daily lives of several dozen homeless heroin injectors who sought shelter in the dead-end alleyways, storage lots, vacant factories, broken-down cars, and overgrown highway embankments surrounding Edgewater Boulevard (not its real name), the main thoroughfare serving San Francisco’s sprawling, semi-derelict warehouse and shipyard district.

    The maze of on-ramps and off-ramps surrounding the shooting gallery nicknamed the hole is part of the commuter backbone servicing the dot-com and biotech economies of Silicon Valley and downtown San Francisco. These freeways connect some of the highest-paying jobs in the United States to...

  4. Chapter 1 Intimate Apartheid
    (pp. 25-45)

    Toward the middle of the first year of our fieldwork, a lull in law enforcement allowed a central camp to emerge that was larger and somewhat drier than the other, more precarious encampments we had been visiting in the alleys behind Edgewater Boulevard. This new camp was protected from the rain by a supersize I-beam retrofitted in the decade following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake to support a double-decker, eight-lane freeway. The site was also camouflaged by garbage and a canopy of scrub oaks and eucalyptus branches. A tangle of access and exit ramps further isolated the spot, which became...

  5. Chapter 2 Falling in Love
    (pp. 47-77)

    Carrying a sixteen-ounce can of discount malt liquor bearing the imprint of her always freshly applied lipstick, Tina projected a persona of defiant lumpen femininity. She dressed to the hilt in color-coordinated silk, satin, and leather outfits and identified herself publicly as an alcoholic. She spent most of her time and energy, however, in pursuit of crack, shoplifting from the stores on Edgewater Boulevard and throughout the Mission District. She also demanded money aggressively or seductively from friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

    Her preference for crack and alcohol and her aggressive style of panhandling initially brought her into Reggie’s orbit in...

  6. Chapter 3 A Community of Addicted Bodies
    (pp. 79-115)

    Felix jolted awake at 1:00 a.m. with “migraines and the sweats.” It was going to be a long night: dopesickness was coming on, and Sal the dealer was not going to open until 7:00 a.m. Felix tried to urinate into the plastic water bottle that he kept next to his blankets, but his body was shaking too hard. He stood up, but his leg muscles spasmed and he fell down the highway embankment. He had to drag himself on his hands and knees to get back up to his mattress, pausing twice to retch.

    The next morning when we visited...

  7. Chapter 4 Childhoods
    (pp. 117-145)

    With only a few exceptions, all of the Edgewater homeless grew up poor. Most of their childhood homes were violent, and many had alcoholic parents. A few, however, described their families as having been stable and supportive.

    There were notable differences across ethnicities in how families coped with having one of their adult members living as a homeless drug user. The majority of the whites had no contact with their natal families; many no longer knew where their parents and siblings lived. Al and Ben were the only whites in the core network who kept in touch with their parents....

  8. Chapter 5 Making Money
    (pp. 147-181)

    The city of San Francisco lost twelve thousand manufacturing jobs between 1962 and 1972, the years when most of the Edgewater homeless were adolescents (Arthur D. Little Inc. 1975). The Edgewater Boulevard corridor, which had provided employment for most of the residents in the neighborhood up the hill, was particularly hard hit. Most of San Francisco’s largest factories were located off Edgewater. It was also the hub for the region’s transportation, communications, and utility sectors, including the Southern Pacific railroad and, most important, the shipyards. Throughout the mid-1950s, the Hunters Point navy shipyard was the engine of heavy industry in...

  9. Chapter 6 Parenting
    (pp. 183-207)

    In the 1990s, income inequality grew more extreme throughout the United States, and the number of children living in poverty in California rose by almost half amillion (Kids Count 2002). All of the Edgewater homeless except Hank had children, and most had been married and divorced. None maintained regular contact with their progeny. They were the “deadbeat dads” and “crack monster mothers” vilified in the press for failing to support and nurture their children (in an era when social services for impoverished and abandoned youth were severely cut back) (Bourgois 2003b:276–286). Everyone in our scene prioritized heroin over family....

  10. Chapter 7 Male Love
    (pp. 209-239)

    During our first year of fieldwork, the city of San Francisco undertook its first major evictions of the Edgewater Boulevard homeless encampments. Following the “zero-tolerance” policies pioneered by Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City, the mayor of San Francisco, Frank Jordan (a former police chief ), instituted the “Matrix Program” (San Francisco Independent1997, October 21). The city’s police force began issuing tens of thousands of tickets for “quality of life crimes” such as jaywalking, loitering, panhandling, and drinking and urinating in public. The rusted shopping carts many of the homeless used to keep their possessions safe were defined...

  11. Chapter 8 Everyday Addicts
    (pp. 241-269)

    To convey in raw detail the daily challenges of obtaining heroin, crack, and alcohol as well as the basic resources for survival, we present a selection of extended fieldnotes and tape recordings in this chapter with minimal analytical discussion. We return to the period of our fieldwork described at the end of chapter 2, when Tina confessed to Jeff at the Thanksgiving picnic that she had started injecting heroin. Our selection of notes and tape recordings proceeds chronologically with the story of Tina and Carter’s love affair over the next five years. We hope to portray the creative agency of...

  12. Chapter 9 Treatment
    (pp. 271-296)

    In 1996, the San Francisco Department of Public Health declared that it would provide “treatment on demand” to drug users. During our dozen years of fieldwork, however, treatment on demand was never available for the homeless (see critique by Shavelson 2001). Addiction is not simply biologically determined; it is a social experience that is not amenable to magic-bullet biomedical solutions. Although many heroin and crack users (no one knows the proportion) eventually manage to cease using drugs permanently, most of them fail treatment most of the time. Treatment advocates argue that relapse is “normal” and that every single day of...

  13. Conclusion: Critically Applied Public Anthropology
    (pp. 297-320)

    As anthropologists studying people who live under conditions of extreme duress and distress, we feel it is imperative to link theory to practice. Otherwise, we would be merely intellectual voyeurs. It is politically and analytically gratifying to engage with critical theory, but we also need to operate at the level of immediate policy options and specific local interventions that can be implemented in both the short and long term to reduce the structurally imposed suffering of our research subjects.

    Applied work is never straightforward politically, theoretically, or practically, and we enter the public health and social service policy debates with...

  14. Notes on the Photographs
    (pp. 321-326)
  15. References
    (pp. 327-343)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 344-345)
  17. Index
    (pp. 346-359)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 360-360)