Moloney, M. and G. Hunt. 2012. “Consumption, Drugs and Style: Constructing Intra-Ethnic Boundaries in Asian American Youth Cultures”.

Moloney, Molly and Geoffrey P. Hunt. 2012. “Consumption, Drugs and Style: Constructing Intra-Ethnic Boundaries in Asian American Youth Cultures.” Drugs 19(6) December: 462-473.

How consumption, style, and taste cultures intersect with ethnic identities, gender, and “acculturation” — how consumption markers (fashion, cars, music, drugs) create/negotiate symbolic boundaries within Asian American dance/club scenes.

Demonstrates lack of cohesion, establishment of boundaries through drug choice and communicating intoxications – particularly within ethnic groups

Commodity consumption central to construction of identities/lifestyles (Douglas and Isherwood 1996; McKay 1997; Miller 1995) – especially those of youth cultures (Deutsch and Theodorou 2010; Hebdige 1979; Miles 2000)

Cultural consumption as drawing and acting as social group boundaries (Eckert 1989; Frost 2003; Miles 2002) — particularly within rave/club cultures (Anderson 2009; Hutton 2006; Malbon 1999; Perrone 2009; Pini 1997; Rief 2009; Thornton 1996).

Authors frame drugs not as “essentialized substances” (McDonald 1994), but as embedded within identities, social contexts (Hunt and Barker 2001; Hunt, Moloney and Fazio 2011b) – further, drug consumption helps in creating identities/group boundaries (Hunt, Moloney and Evans 2011a; Moloney, Hunt and Evans 2008) – as drug consumption also builds into constructions of self and social locations (race, gender, sexual identities) — (Bauermeister 2007; Ettorre 2007; Milhet et al 2011; Mitchell, Bunton and Green 2004; Reith 2004; Rief 2009; Soller and Lee 2010).

In raving/clubbing contexts, sense of community and carnival can promote collective identification so that ‘“in these situations, notions that are central to our personal biographies” such as gender, ethnicity or class, “can become temporarily eclipsed by what is that we share with those with whom we are co-present” (Malbon 1999: 50, here 463). Maffesoli (1996): race, class, gender, religion no longer act as a primary determinant of group identities – instead “neo-tribes” (see also Bennett 1999; Muggleton 2000) arrange around consumption, lifestyles, ethics, aesthetics that promote identities that are temporary, plural, fluid, and transient (Riley, Griffin, and Morey 2010) — however, these authors argue that these identities have not been completely transcended or eclipsed, but instead give us information about authenticity, consumption, style, and symbolic boundaries (see Lamont and Molnar 2002) as they are understood and given meaning through ethnic boundaries.

Methods pull: “Coding and analysis is an iterative process that entails reading and rereading the interview transcripts to produce successively more abstract and refined ideas about themes and domains of interest (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984; Miles & Huberman, 1994). One key aspect of this is to identify and analyse interpretive repertoires, or recurring ways of talking about topics, that are used by respondents (Bogren, 2010; Fairclough, 2010; Wetherell & Potter, 1988)” (465).

Assigning pejorative terms to “FOB” – newly established or “un-acculturated” immigrants – especially as respondents “aspired to an ambiguous and undefined ‘bicultural middle’ (466) – as assessed through language, sexual chastity, self-stylings, abidance to ‘traditional’ values.  Intentional “disidentification” of respondents to establish American identities, deflect racisms. HOWEVER, could not be “too acculturated” (thus, too White) – as it is displayed through consumer and cultural displays, music consumption – critiquing women’s adoption of Western beauty ideals “too much”

“The management of bodily appearance – ‘all those features of the surface of the body, including modes of dress and adornment, which are visible to the individual and to other agents, and which are ordinarily used as clues to interpret actions’ – is a crucial aspect of the construction of self-identity (Giddens, 1991, p. 99)” (here 468) — however, unlike other reviews of youth cultures where respondents use fashion to demonstrate belonging/difference for selves; this work notes that respondents used fashion narratives to situate belong/difference for others (468).

Drug consumption as critical in parsing out “cool from squares” – “Again, markers of ethnicity and nationality, social class, differing masculinities and consumption (from clothes to drugs), intermingle within this narrative, in distinguishing the square Asians from his group. Substance use and clothing style were both important indicators of one’s cool versus square status” (470).  However, respondents were quick to establish themselves in contrast to other Asian-Americans who used drugs (particularly ecstasy) to excess – questioning conduct, motivation for participation in raves/scene, and belonging of these peripheral folks.

Subcultural capital (Thornton 1996) draws from Bourdieu (1984) ideas of capital: ‘Just as cultural capital is personified in ‘good manners’ and urbane conversation, so subcultural capital is embodied in the forms of being ‘in the know’ (Thornton, 1996, pp. 11–12, see also Bielby & Bielby, 2004; Frith, 1996 – here 474).

For respondents, building subcultural capital involves negotiation of ethnic identities and associated cultural practices (Hunt et al 2005; Maira 2002) à Kibria (2002)’s “ethnic identity capital”?

“Adopting particular styles – of music, clothing or drug use – and marking symbolic boundaries between groups allows young people to make a statement about who they are or who they aspire to be (Barth, 1969; Lamont & Molnár, 2002). By identifying with particular groups and rejecting others, an individual defines him- or herself” (474).


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