Towards a normalisation of young people’s drinking practices: a Chicago school ethnographic study in the Canterbury night-time economy

PhD Thesis

McPherson, R. 2017. Towards a normalisation of young people’s drinking practices: a Chicago school ethnographic study in the Canterbury night-time economy. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
AuthorsMcPherson, R.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

This PhD thesis is an ethnographic investigation into the drinking practices of young people undertaken in the Canterbury (Kent, United Kingdom) night-time economy.

This research took place across a series of fieldwork sites, including: pubs, night-clubs, the street, and young people’s houses across the city. The research included an in-depth ethnography which took place in a city-centre pub where I was working as a bartender, which adapted the methodological approach of the Chicago School of Sociology to urban studies in a contemporary context. Specific examples from the research included a case study with two young men in the pub who were drinking after work, and a wide-range of other ethnographic examples taken from scenarios arising through my position at the pub resulting from bar conversations and informal interviews. These were selected from a number of literally thousands of young people who I encountered across the two years of fieldwork in the pub.

The licensee of the pub, Andrew, acted as a gatekeeper for the research, as his approach to the pub business corresponded to interaction and the possibility of building ethnographic relationships with young people. Other ethnographic data examples were also taken from the wider Canterbury night-time economy, away from the pub at the centre of the in-depth ethnography. The variety of data sets included participant observation, conversation, informal interviews and the field diary.

Drawing from the accounts of participants in the fieldwork and emergent themes in the ethnography, the thesis argues that young people are the subject of a normalization of extreme drinking practices in the night-time economy. This is explored through the adaptation of the model of drug normalization theory, where young people’s experiences of alcohol and extreme drinking practices are examined in relation to specific dimensions of drinking. The media stereotyping of extreme drinking practices by young people is also subject to critique, where it will be argued that the term “binge” drinking is an imprecise and moralistic view of young people’s activities in the night-time economy.

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Publication process dates
Deposited03 Oct 2018
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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