This week I have been rushing through the new Harpers (“Readings” this month is stunning!), watching the Falcon Cam nonstop (baby falcons hatching before your eyes!), reading Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (holy opus), and reading Philippe Bourgois/Jeff Schonberg’s monumental Righteous Dopefiend. I have also been packing, which has been much less fun.
Righteous Dopefiend is a photographic/ethnographic account of homeless heroin addicts in San Francisco. It has been interesting for me to consider how powerful this book might be if it were one or the other–it would certainly remain shocking and moving if it were only photography, and conversely, the ethnography would be no less effective and evocative without the photography. It should come as no surprise that this collaboration is, then, incredible. This book should probably required reading for every single American, as it has plenty to say about addiction, drug abuse, marginalization, racism, de-industrialization, marxism, relationships, and more. Largely, I think, this book has plenty to say about America, and an America that most Americans might be resistant to either even consider or want to explore. It is thus both exciting and important that this book is readable, practical and rarely alienates by using anthropological jargon that an average reader might be unfamiliar with. I am not wholly familiar with much ethnographic theory, but the resulting collaborating between Bourgois and Schonberg is inspirational and fanfuckingtastic. My admiration for Bourgois is well documented, and this book is building on it more.
I will have more to say about this when I finish it, I think, as well as Asterios Polyp. Additionally, I hope my archaeologist boyfriend doesn’t mind that I want to be an ethnographer anymore. Or that I just used anymore incorrectly.