Gender, class and 'binge' drinking: an ethnography of drinkers in Bournemouth's night-time economy.
Authors: Haydock, W.
Editors: Read, R. and Holloway, I.
Conference: Bournemouth University; School of Health and Social CareAbstract:
In early 21 SI-century Britain there is a focus by media, government and academia on young people's consumption of alcohol - often using the term 'binge' drinking - and how this should be understood and regulated. This thesis argues that contemporary forms of alcohol regulation can be seen as part of a broader neo-liberal mentality of government, encompassing the creation of a classed and gendered figure of the self-disciplined, responsible, ideal citizen. This ethnographic study of the night-time economy in Bournemouth, a town on the south coast of England, considers how young people's drinking practices and discussions relate to these discourses to constitute gender and class. The location and analytical focus of the study complement previous research, which has tended to be based in formerly industrial cities and has either emphasised similarities amongst young people or focused on how drinking practices reflect people's gender and class backgrounds. Interviews were conducted with 20 professionals alongside 45 hours of participant observation resulting in interactions with 113 drinkers. Drawing on the work of Butler and Bourdieu, this study conceives of gender and class as norms that structure people's perceptions of the world and possibilities within it; drinking practices and understandings are both part of these structures and also actions that lead to individuals being consequently classified. Young people's various 'drinking styles' can be arranged on a continuum from the everyday to the carnivalesque. The everyday style draws on the figure of the responsible individual noted in government discourses and oppositional figures such as the 'chav', which distance the speaker from problematic 'binge' drinking in class terms. Other participants labelled such views 'stuck up', as part of a symbolic struggle. In terms of gender, themes of safekeeping interacted with these discourses, as certain practices were considered unfeminine and not 'classy', for example. The thesis argues that, as well as reflecting class and gender, these styles can be seen as discursive resources that authorise accounts of drinking, constituting symbolic capital and therefore class and gender. It is thus argued that the night-time economy is a key site for the formation of class and gender in contemporary British society.
Preferred by: William Haydock