Khat Chewing and Dark Leisure

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Spencer SWAIN, PhD Student, United Kingdom
This paper draws on research currently being undertaken on khat chewing within the Somali community. Its aim is to address the moral debate surrounding the use of khat, a narcotic chewed by Somali males in their leisure time. The paper provides an overview of the arguments surrounding the morality of khat chewing, encompassing the views of detractors such as women’s groups, religious authorities, and the UK Government. Who argue that the practice has a negative effect on communities, is prohibited by the Quran and funds terrorist activities on the Horn of Africa (Harris, 2004; Travis, 2013). The views of those who chew khat is also put forward through articulating their arguments on khats role in providing community and a sense of belonging to a wider Somali identity, which in Western societies helps them alleviate feelings of being threatened or stigmatised (Hansen, 2010). The key argument is built around how we articulate dark leisure. By using the philosophical insight of Zygmunt Bauman (2000) and Emmanuel Levinas (1985), it will be argued, that in contemporary society, referred to as liquid modernity, ethical legislation in the form of religious and political doctrine becomes increasingly hard to enforce. This is due to the ephemeral nature of contemporary society, caused by globalization and the subsequent increasing flows of populations and cultures which have penetrated the supposedly homogenous and uniformed structures of the nation state. As a result, it will be argued that institutionalised forms of ethical legislation have been replaced by individual notions of morality, due to the increased levels individuality imposed upon people. Leading to a situation where khat chewing and other Dark Leisure activities should be understood through the mantra of how they affect the ‘Other’, making morality more ambiguous, as each situation has to be understood within a variety of different contexts.