CWU News

Righteous Dopefiend Exhibit Explores Addiction and Homelessness

The following free events, all scheduled in the Dean Hall lobby, are planned in conjunction with the exhibition Righteous Dopefiend at CWU:

January 10: An expressive arts workshop called Homeplace, planned from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., invites homeless persons and people who have experienced chemical dependency and their friends and allies to create art about their experiences that reflects the nature of home. The workshop will be lead by expressive arts therapist Nan Doolittle and CWU student Maggie Bauermeister.

January 14: The opening reception for Righteous Dopefiend begins at 5:30 p.m. The evening will feature slam poetry by Xavier Cavazos and a presentation by Julia Karns of the Kittitas County Public Health Department.

January 29: Jeff Schonberg, coauthor of Righteous Dopefiend, will be featured in a roundtable discussion called Poverty and the Politics of Representation. The talk begins at noon and will touch on the ethics of photographing poverty. Other panelists include CWU photography professor Allyson Klutenkamper, anthropology professors Hope Amason and Lene Pedersen, and grad student Saeed Mohamed.

January 29: Philippe Bourgois, coauthor of Righteous Dopefiend, will give a talk called Public Anthropology, Photo-Ethnography, and Homelessness in America at 5:30 p.m. Bourgois will touch on his recent research, in collaboration with Jeff Schonberg and Laurie Kain Hart, on drug use and impoverishment in America.

February 7: Doolittle and Bauermeister will lead another expressive arts workshop called Book of Life, from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Community members and students are invited to make art books out of old hard cover books, glue, photos, pens, fabric and buttons that reflect personal and family stories of homelessness, addiction and recovery.

February 12: A Darwin Day inspired roundtable discussion called Why the Rush? Evolutionary Perspectives on Addiction, is planned at 5:30 p.m. Featured faculty members include Kara Gabriel (psychology), Lucinda Carnell (biological sciences), Joe Lorenz (anthropology and museum studies), and David Darda (biological sciences).

February 19: A roundtable featuring specialists, community members and students will explore Addiction and Recovery in our Neighborhoods: A Community Conversation. The 5:30 p.m. talk will focus on local challenges and ways to ease addiction and homelessness in Central Washington.

March 5: A roundtable examining racial disparities in drug-related sentencing in the United States, titled Drug Wars: Incarceration and Racial Justice, is planned at 5:30 p.m.

March 7: A third expressive arts workshop called Winter Count: Keepers of History, is planned from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. The workshop is inspired by the traditional Lakota winter count method of representing history. Participants will reflect on the exhibition Righteous Dopefiend and create art that recounts stories of challenge and struggle.

The Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University is preparing to open a new exhibition designed to give viewers the experience of walking through an inner city community of homelessness and intravenous drug use.

“It’s specifically about San Francisco, but also the larger issue of heroin use,” said Museum Director Mark Auslander. “It’s supposed to feel in-your-face. This is unlike anything we’ve done.”

On January 14, the museum in CWU’s Dean Hall will open Righteous Dopefiend: Homelessness, Addiction and Poverty in Urban America, a traveling exhibition organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Ellensburg is the first place to receive the show.

The exhibition is based on the book Righteous Dopefiend, published in 2009 after anthropologist Philippe Bourgois and photographer-ethnographer Jeff Schonberg spent 12 years among a community of heroin injectors and crack smokers on the streets of San Francisco. Presentations by Bourgois and Schonberg on January 29 are among several events planned at CWU in conjunction with the exhibition, which runs through March 21.

In the exhibition viewers will explore the intimate experience of homelessness and addiction through black and white photographs interwoven with edited transcripts of tape-recorded conversations, fieldwork notes and critical analysis. A student-developed installation on local homelessness and addiction will supplement the exhibition. It will include community art pieces inspired by the theme Homeplace; data on homelessness and heroin use in Kittitas and Yakima counties; powerful quotes from people directly affected by addiction and homelessness; and a small memorial space for local people who have died as a result of heroin use.

The opening reception at 5:30 p.m. January 14 in the Dean Hall lobby will feature slam poet Xavier Cavazos and an address by Julia Karns of the Kittitas County Public Health Department about heroin in the county.

The exhibition is meant to be a conversation starter about homelessness and addiction. Heroin use can affect people who are rich or poor, rural or city dwellers, well educated or school dropouts. “We’re not an inner city environment, but we’re still struggling with these issues,” Auslander said, adding that in a very broad way, all of us are prone to addiction. “What makes this exhibition relevant is that addiction, in a profound way, is a social condition. The way people cope depends on their social framework.”

Homelessness also affects more people than we realize. “It can be a very invisible affliction in society,” Auslander said. “And a surprising number of people are just one paycheck away from being out on the street.”

Righteous Dopefiend was organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Museum of Culture and Environment at CWU is on North D Street in Ellensburg. The museum is open from 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Wednesday though Friday, and 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.

Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841,

PHOTO: Objects are on loan from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA, by which all rights are reserved.

January 6, 2015