Optics and illusions of street drinking in East London: A thematic analysis

First published: 13 March 2019 | Last updated: 28 March 2019

Dr Allan Tyler

Research Supervisor and Visiting Lecturer

Research Supervisor and Visiting Lecturer, School of Applied Sciences (Psychology), London South Bank University

Aims: This paper aims to address a lack of qualitative research on street drinking in the United Kingdom. Drinking alcohol in outdoor public places (e.g. streets and parks) and outside of formally organised events can be associated with reports of antisocial behaviour and/or indicate chronic alcohol consumption and other problematic behaviours (Manton, Pennay, & Savic, 2014). This paper helps develop a richer understanding of the lived-experience of people engaging in street drinking, explores their accounts of what motivates and escalates the behaviour, and compares factors of risk and resilience from participants’ life stories, focusing on residents and contexts of one East London borough.

Method: The authors collected and triangulated ethnographic data from semi-structured interviews and field observations from April to June 2018 alongside local outreach workers. Interview participants included people in recovery from alcohol misuse, key workers, and local residents. Data was analysed using an inductive Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) with a reflexive, social constructionist approach.

Results: Three emerging themes are defined and illustrated from the data: ‘Disrupting Assumptions about Drug and Alcohol Hierarchies’; ‘Reconstructing Agency from Self-Medication’; and ‘Negotiating Binaries of Safety/Hazards in Public/Private’. Definitions and illustrations from participants aid explanations of how the texts add detail or disruption to dominant discourses.

Conclusion: People in various stages of early recovery from alcohol misuse offer in-depth accounts of individual lived experiences and personal constructions of priorities. These accounts can be disruptive of normative assumptions about ‘street drinking’, alcohol misuse, and recovery, and thus informative for evidence-based treatment.



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Dr Allan Tyler