Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Relatively little research has examined what motivates people to make the choice to become involved with drugs, how drug involvement becomes a salient feature of those individuals' lives, the consequence for their identity, and how these vary by race/ethnicity, class, gender and residential location. Inspired by Bourdieu and emerging criminological research utilizing his framework, and in concert with insights from narrative criminology, I fill a gap in the literature I provide a nuanced examination of the intersecting influences of race/ethnicity, class, gender, and residential location on the development of a drug using or dealing identity. Sixty current or former users and dealers were interviewed across two research sites. Semi-structured life-history interviews were used to elicit narratives from participants.
I find participants pull from multiple subculturally available identities to construct their own personal narrative identities and that these identities vary by user, dealer, race/ethnicity, class, gender, and residential location. Drug users could call on a variety of identities and the most commonly presented ones among my sample included "party", "responsible drug user", "super mom", or "failing mom" identities. Those from Two Rivers more commonly constructed a party identity, while it was more common for those from Winterton City to construct one of the later identities. Dealers often called on one of three identities. Those from Two Rivers could be considered "good time dealers" while those from Winterton City were more apt to construct a "hustler" or "survivor" identity in relation to their dealing. I provide evidence that deviant identities are not situationally constructed and enacted. Instead, deviant behaviors are incorporated into an individual's pre-existing identity and are shaped by important markers of social identity. I suggest this identification with drug involvement becomes important for an individual's sense of identity with effects for deviant and no-deviant spheres of life.
Jacob H. Erickson
Erickson, Jacob H., ""Before drugs it's almost like I didn't exist" Contextualized drug narratives: Structure, stories and identity" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17915.