In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio


Philippe Bourgois (born 1956) is a Richard Perry University Professor of Anthropology & Family and Community Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He also served as founding Chair of the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco from 1998 through 2003. A student of Eric Wolf and influenced by the work of French social theorists Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault, he is considered an important proponent of neo-Marxist theory and of critical medical anthropology.[1] His most recent book Righteous Dopefiend was co-authored with Jeff Schonberg and was published in June, 2009 by the University of California Press in their “Public Anthropology” series. It is based on 12 years of participant-observation research with a social network of homeless heroin injectors and crack smokers surviving on the streets of San Francisco six blocks from his home. The book won the 2010 Anthony Leeds Prize for Urban Anthropology and is a 'photo-ethnography' interweaving over 60 black-and-white photographs with transcribed dialogue, fieldwork notes and critical anthropological theory and analysis. At the University of Pennsylvania, Bourgois and co-curators Laurie Hart and Jeff Schonberg prepared an audio-visual photography exhibit entitled Righteous Dopefiend: Homelessness, Addiction and Poverty in Urban America drawing from the book. The exhibit travels and was most recently displayed (2015) at the Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. Bourgois' previous book was based on five years living with his family next to a crack house in East Harlem during the mid-1980s through the early 1990s: In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. It won the 1996 C. Wright Mills Award and the 1997 Margaret Mead Award among others. Many of his books and articles have been translated for foreign publication. He has also conducted research in Central America on ethnicity and social unrest and is the author of Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation (1989) which was based on two years of living in the workers' barracks of a Chiquita Brands banana plantation spanning the borders of Costa Rica and Panama.[2]

Bourgois received a bachelor's degree in Social Studies from Harvard College in 1978. He was awarded a master's degree in Development Economics (1980) and a Ph.D. in Anthropology (1985) from Stanford University. He spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1985-6.

In graduate school he worked for the Agrarian Reform ministry in Nicaragua (1980) during the Sandinista revolution and was a human rights activist on Capitol Hill advocating against military aid to the government of El Salvador in 1982. His first academic job was as Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at Washington University in St. Louis (1986-1988) followed by 10 years at San Francisco State University (1988-1998) and a decade at the University of California, San Francisco. He has also been a Fulbright Research professor in Costa Rica (1993-1994) and a Visiting Scholar at the Russel Sage Foundation (1990-1991) and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2003-2004) [3]

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