Exploring the micro-politics of normalisation: Narratives of pleasure, self-control and desire in a sample of young Australian ‘party drug’ users
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This article explores the micro-politics of recreational use of illicit ‘party drugs’ in a social networkof young Australians. These young people often engage in extended sessions of concurrent alcoholand other drug use, and regularly emphasise the pleasures associated with this use. However,as well-integrated young people, they are also exposed to the discourses of non-using friends, familyand the wider society, which represent illicit drug use as a potential moral threat. Some group membersinvoked the need for self-control in relation to illicit drug use and had developed a number of strategiesto cease or regulate their use. However, they struggled to regulate pleasure and drew on popularunderstandings of ‘excessive’ drug use as indicative of flawed neo-liberal subjectivity. Other groupmembers rejected the need for self-control, choosing instead to emphasise the value of unrestrainedbodily pleasure facilitated by the heavy use of illicit drugs. These co-existing discourses point to thecomplex ways in which illicit drug users try to challenge the stigma associated with their drug use.Our analysis suggests that future accounts of illicit drug use, and harm reduction initiatives, need to bemore attentive to the micro-politics of normalisation. How should harm reduction respond to thosewho articulate its ethos but pursue pleasure in practice? What should harm reduction say to thosewho reject regulation on the grounds that it stifles pleasure? Discussing ways to incorporate pleasureinto harm reduction should be central to the future development of policy and practice.
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