Mercer Sullivan

Recent Articles

Ethnodrama and Reality

Commentary on "The House That Crack Built"

A response to "The House That Crack Built. " This is a fascinating portrayal of an institution that has gained considerable notoriety among Americans who have never been near such a place or substance. The vivid imagery and vibrant, if shocking, language will probably crystallize for readers the image of the crack house more than detached journalistic accounts have. This piece is neither journalism, fiction, nor ethnography. Its closest equivalent may be the television docudrama. Perhaps we could call it an ethnodrama. I write as a professional ethnographer who conducted direct studies of drug dealers and users in New York City in the early and mid-1980's, up through the beginning of the crack epidemic. Since then, I have continued to study other aspects of inner-city life, all of them profoundly influenced by crack, and I have worked with other ethnographers who have studied crack users and dealers. The following discussion draws on my own work and that of my colleagues, particularly...