The Effects of Place on Health Risk: A Qualitative Study of Micro-Injecting Environments
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This thesis examines the relationship between place and health-risk in the context of injecting drug use; with specific focus upon such practice that is located within public and semi-public locations. The research followed phenomenological and ethnographic traditions; complemented by interview data and the exploratory application of visual methods (photography and video). This qualitative research was therefore designed to articulate the essence of public injecting in an urban setting within the UK and provide more nuanced understandings of the relationship between injecting drug use, health-risk and the socio-physical environments in which drugs are injected. This study focused upon the public injecting experience of 31 individuals and considered their motivations, injecting technique (and associated hygiene) and risk/safety management strategies associated with such drug use. The research was further guided by critical theory for considering the role of structure and agency. More specifically, the agency of public injectors was analysed within the theoretical frameworks advocated by Pierre Bourdieu concerning habitus, capital, field and the logics of practice. A wide range of minor harms and major hazards were identified with participation in public injecting. However, those harms and hazards identified were not necessarily unique to the public injecting phenomenon and may be experiences noted within wider drug-injecting practice. Nevertheless, it is the preparedness of public injectors to risk these harms that opportunities for hazard are increased in public settings. Accordingly, the effect of spatially located injecting drug use (in public/semi-public settings) upon health risk may be summarised as one that, in contemporary contexts, amplifies existing injecting related risk and harm. In Bourdieusian terminology, the logic of practice that ensues from the inter-relationality of habitus and capital, within the field of public injecting, is characterised by a commitment to a doxic attitude of resistance (situated and symbolic). Furthermore, these resistance strategies establish an illusio of harm and hazard that is both embodied and embedded within the logic of practice. Consequently, this thesis provides an empirical assessment of social issues (injecting drug use, place and health) rarely addressed by Bourdieu's key contributions to sociological discourse.
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