‘Just Knocking out Pills’: An Ethnography of British Drug Dealers in Ibiza
Background: Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with British seasonal workers and tourists, this paper provides an extensive overview of the methodological processes of researching drug users and drug dealers within the international nightlife resort of Ibiza. In an innovative application of Bryman’s (2004) Disneyization framework, it is argued that seasonal workers are engaged in a deep form of performative labour. As mediators of Ibiza’s hedonistic atmosphere, this social group are revealed to be deeply immersed in the island’s renowned drug market.
Methods: Ethnographic fieldwork employing a grounded theory design was undertaken over three summers in tourist locations across Ibiza, including: nightclubs; bars and cafes; beaches; airports and hotels. Field notes from participant observation were supplemented with data from semi-structured interviews (n=56). Documentary photography was also employed, with 580 images taken during fieldwork.
Results and Conclusion: Many British seasonal workers in Ibiza are rapidly enmeshed within the drug market associated with the island’s hedonistic nightlife. Participants in this study were invariably engaged in high levels of illicit drug use, and unlike their tourist counterparts, this was drawn out over several months. As a consequence of the fragile nature of employment within the legal economy, many seasonal workers in Ibiza rely on income from drug dealing. In a social context where drug use is woven into the consumer space, it seems the multiple risks associated with the drug trade are obfuscated. The paper demonstrates that ethnographic immersion within bounded play spaces is essential if researchers are to generate theoretical insight into the complex intersections between illicit drug use, dealing and social context.
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