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Young adults and ‘binge’ drinking: A Bakhtinian analysis

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In this paper, we use Bakhtin's theory of carnival in a literary analysis of young people's accounts of the role of alcohol in their social lives. Bakhtinian themes in the focus-group transcripts included the dialogic character of drinking stories, the focus on parodic grotesquery, ribald and satiric laughter, and the temporary subversion and reversal of social norms and roles in a world turned ‘inside out’. We suggest that our analysis of the UK's drinking ‘culture’ hints at a previously untheorised complexity and force, and points to a deep contradiction between young people's lived experience of alcohol and government policy discourses based on appeals to individual moral responsibility. We conclude that the carnivalesque resonance of drinking is such that the UK's alcohol problem will continue to worsen until the availability and cultural presence of alcohol is subject to stricter controls.
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Keywords: Bakhtin; alcohol; carnival; young people; ‘binge’ drinking

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Royal Holloway, University of London, UK 2: University of Southampton, UK 3: University of Bath, UK 4: University of Birmingham, UK 5: Durham University, UK

Publication date: 2013-05-01

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