144.1 When drug journeys and life journeys collide: Biographies of risk and pleasure

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 12:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Lisa WILLIAMS , School of Law, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Recreational drug taking provides an interesting case study for understanding the meaning of risk and how it is assessed in contemporary times.  This paper presents data on drug taking and the decision making which underpins it, collected over a fifteen year period from adolescence into early adulthood, as part of the North West England Longitudinal Study (NWELS).  From this study, the author has created a longitudinal qualitative dataset which has produced rich biographical data.  An aim of the paper is to counteract the decontextualised accounts offered by sociological approaches (see Beck, 1992; Giddens, 1991) to understanding how risk is assessed in relation to everyday life using biographical data.  In doing so, a cultural perspective, drawing on the work of Douglas (1992), is advocated which facilitates a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which everyday social and cultural relationships determine responses to risk.  Furthermore, a life course criminology perspective (see Laub and Sampson, 2003) is applied which highlights how events, for example, gaining employment or becoming a parent, experienced on the journey to adulthood can lead to changes in behaviour.  It will be argued that social and cultural relationships and life course events form the context against which risk is assessed.  Through the presentation of individual case studies, the ways in which life journeys intersect with drug journeys and influence the decision making process will be revealed.