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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Sociology of Intoxication (SCIL10054)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course examines what intoxication is, why people seek it out, and why it is often seen as a problem. It covers all licit and illicit drugs, and any other substances taken with the intention of altering the user's consciousness. In the course you will explore pleasure, deviance, abstinence, illicit leisure, socially obligatory drinking, extreme intoxication, taste and social distinction, the cultural construction of public problems, addiction and alcoholism, risk and enhancement. You will use evidence from the UK and around the world and will compare different cultures and contexts. You will conduct your own small research tasks which you will discuss in class and write up in an assessed blog. These tasks include: writing an ethnographic account of interactions in a party, club, pub or cafe; analysing illicit drug seizures by police; and interpreting drug use rituals. Class discussions are led by the topics, themes and examples that students come up with. Teaching is also supported by my Twitter feed, @socintox, which I use to alert the class to relevant resources and summarise key points in class discussions.
Course description a. Academic Description

Political and media discourses only consider intoxication when it manifests as a social problem, treating its effects as accidental or incidental. This course aims to address two significant gaps in our thinking on this topic. First, we mostly think of the experience of intoxication ¿ being drunk, getting high and so on ¿ as happening largely at physiological and psychological levels. The content and construction of the experience of intoxication itself seems to be thought of as off-limits to sociological investigation and theorising, as irrelevant, or as an unfortunate and unwanted side effect. The course will explore the social factors involved in the generation of different experiences of intoxication. Second, when we do consider intoxication as worthy of study we turn it into a problem, rather than seeing it as a normal social practice, as much bounded by rules and norms as any other activity. This course draws on sociology, anthropology, history, psychology, neuroscience and other disciplines to all you to examine intoxication as a practice embedded in social life.

b. Outline content

1. Introduction: How to make a drug
In this session we will discuss the questions: What is a drug? Why do people use them? How do some substances become drugs and others do not? What is intoxication?

2. How to get Drunk without Drinking
In this session we examine the uses to which intoxicants are put and the ways their effects are shaped by material culture. We will be conducting an experiment in class so let me know if you are allergic to alcohol.

3. How to Eat Chocolate
This session examines the uses of drugs in rituals and in binding social groupings and affirming social bonds.

4. How to create a Drug Problem

This session explores the moral regulation of problem drugs and the discursive generation of problem people.

5. How to Get Away With It

This session examines global crime and the concept of ¿normal crime¿.

6. How to Stop

It is possible to speak of some forms of de