Righteous Dopefiend by Phillippe Bourgois

Righteous Dopefiend
The new book by Phillippe Bourgois, Righteous Dopefiend, has just been published by University of California Press. Righteous Dopefiend covers Bourgois’ long-term ethnographic work with heroin injectors and crack smokers on the streets of San Francisco. Jeff Schonberg provided haunting photographs for the book.

“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

“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

Here’s the UC Press description:
Shonberg & Bourgois

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 Dopefiend interweaves 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.

Flag by Jeff Schonberg
And here’s Publisher’s Weekly starred review:

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.

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Culture and Compulsion: Student Posts 2009

Compulsion III by Sandra Doore
Compulsion III by Sandra Doore

Here are all the student posts from this year in the order I put them up. As a group they’ve already proven popular, getting attention from a range of high-power sites and social networks. That’s great, and well-deserved!

Below I also outline how I approached this project with my students. If you want to incorporate something similar into your teaching or comparable work, feel free to use and/or adapt these guidelines. Of course any suggestions or alternative approaches are always appreciated. Leave a comment below or email me at dlende at nd dot edu

The List

Why Do They Do It? Portrayals of Alcohol on Facebook and MySpace

Gambling and Compulsion: Neurobiology Meets Casinos

What’s the Dope on Music and Drugs?

Tobacco Worse Than Cocaine?

Caught in the Net – The Internet & Compulsion

Lights, Camera… Alcohol?

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Can Videogames Actually Be Good For You?

The New Performance Enhancing Drugs

These nine posts join the eight from last year, which went from understanding brain imaging to the differences between men and women drinking on campus – those were rounded up in Why A Final Essay When We Can Do This?

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Shop I Am
By Jackie Dolan, Maria Brooks, Diana Harintho, and Jackie Doherty

Do you feel a thrill when you swipe your card at the register? Come home from the store with things you didn’t plan on buying? Buy things you never use? Run your credits cards up to the limit? If your answers to these questions are yes, you may be a shopaholic.

Shopping and Other Addictions

Newsflash: Shopping addictions are not as glamorous and humorous as the media often portrays them to be. In fact, shopping compulsions are similar to other serious drug addictions that our culture faces today. Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, College of Medicine states:

“Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses. In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping.”

As is seen with all other addictions, compulsive shopping can destroy a person’s life, family, and finances. Take a look at this clip from the show Intervention, which starts with Heidi on a shopping spree.

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Lights, Camera… Alcohol?

James Bond Martini
By Kerry, Lauren, Matt and Nicole

Let’s look at the statistics: “Research found alcohol use depicted in 92 percent of the films in a sample of 601 contemporary movies… Alcohol was used in 52 percent of G-rated films, 89 percent for PG, 93 percent for PG-13 and 95 percent for R”

The stone-cold-sober fact? Alcohol is everywhere in films and it shapes the consumption of alcohol by viewers. A 2008 study concluded that each year the average US adolescent (ages 10-14) was exposed to “5.6 hours of movie alcohol use and 243.8 alcohol brand appearances in the top 100 US box office films from 1998-2002.”

Beyond exposure, the magnetism of a drinking character can influence viewers. “Health educators and policymakers are alerted to the fact that the entertainment media too often portray glamorous characters as enjoying alcoholic beverages without facing negative consequences, which may particularly affect the viewers who feel attracted to the role characters.”

Hollywood cinema can be magical, with scenes that seduce the viewer and tattoo memory to mind. These mystical moments generally glamorize alcohol. Drinkers are frequently depicted in films as more attractive, more aggressive, more romantically/sexually active, and as having a higher socioeconomic status than nondrinkers.

In contrast, Hollywood alcoholics are regularly depicted as hopeless, broken deadbeats, chugging down whiskey while their lives crumble around them. Thus, the movie industry portrays the two polar extremes of alcohol use – glamorized celebration and desolate disease. There is no middle ground.

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Caught in the Net – The Internet & Compulsion

Internet Evolution
By Emily Salvaterra, KT Hanson, Gonzalo Brenner, Hannah Jackson

Why are you reading this? Do you want to learn? Are you doing research? Maybe you’re bored and are looking to kill time? Are you addicted and can’t get offline?

So just how many of those links did you check out? After clicking on the first one, did you want to click on another? Did you fight the urge or just keep clicking?

How Much is Too Much? When a Habit Goes Too Far
World in Hand
Almost 25% of the people in the world are active Internet users. More than 100 million Facebook users log on at least once per day. Nine blogs are created each minute. As advancements in Internet technology continue to make the world smaller and smaller, new users are plugging into the Net at an unbelievable pace. But what happens when these users are logging on too often? Where do you draw the line between harmless and harmful?

Many experts today are asking these questions about Internet usage. The Internet can be a valuable tool for accessing information, making connections, and maintaining relationships. People all over the world use their cell phones, laptops, and home computers to access the Internet and branch out in all directions on the information superhighway. But for some, one wrong turn changes the Internet from a mode of communication to a medium of compulsion.

The Process of Escalation

Remember what your life was like without the Internet? We don’t. And we don’t particularly want to imagine life without it either. Today we live in a fast-paced technology-loving age where the answers to most any question are just a mouse click away. Unfortunately, this is just part of the problem when it comes to Internet addiction.

Over the years, the Internet has become too stimulating, too accessible, too anonymous, and too interactive. To put it simply, it’s way too easy to get sucked into the Internet. For some people, an everyday habit of checking Facebook on your new BlackBerry (a.k.a. CrackBerry) can turn into a full-blown compulsion in a matter of weeks.

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Tobacco Worse Than Cocaine?

Gas Deal
By Mariana Cuervo, Elizabeth Montana, Brian Smith, and Sadie Pitzenberger

Is your local gas station attendant a drug dealer? Most people would say no, yet he readily deals all day long with customers looking for their next nicotine fix. Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco, keeps its users hooked.

Even though most people do not consider tobacco to be a drug, this post will show that it is exactly that. Tobacco delivers similar neurobiological effects as illegal substances like cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, all more commonly associated with the word “drug.” With tobacco, however, advertising and the law contribute to the common perception that tobacco is not a drug.

Tobacco Products

Just like on the street corner, where you might be able to buy crack, marijuana or meth, a gas station offers different types of drugs. Tobacco itself comes in many forms: dip, snuff, cigars and, of course cigarettes.

Chewing tobacco or “dip” is a smokeless form of tobacco, which when packed into the lip allows nicotine to flow into the bloodstream via the gum line. Snuff, a finer form of tobacco, is snorted while cigarettes are smoked. Both provide an alternative way to get a nicotine high.

The ways in which these tobacco products are consumed mirror the techniques of cocaine consumption – coca leaves are chewed, cocaine is snorted, and crack is smoked. So how is tobacco different?
Cigarette Poisons
And just like marijuana tobacco is grown in the ground, picked and dried, and then rolled into cigars and cigarettes. Tobacco has nicotine while marijuana has tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both are responsible for getting the user high.

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