Disneyization: A framework for understanding illicit drug use in bounded play spaces

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This paper combines evidence from an ethnographic study of illicit drug use amongst tourists in Ibiza with Bryman’s (2004) theoretical model of Disneyization. The principal aim was to construct a new conceptual framework that may help scholars, practitioners and policy makers make sense of dynamic patterns of illegal drug use across bounded play spaces such as tourist resorts, music festivals and nightclubs.


Ethnographic fieldwork employing a grounded theory design was undertaken over three summers in tourist locations on the Balearic island of Ibiza, including nightclubs, bars, cafes, beaches, airports and hotels. Field notes from participant observation were supplemented with data from semi-structured interviews (n = 56) and secondary sources gathered from tourist marketing.


The framework of Disneyization has been discussed in terms of 5 constructs: theming, hybrid consumption, branding, performative labour and atmospheres; each having a specific role in relation to understanding illicit drug use in bounded play spaces. Thus: Theming sets the stage, by physically and symbolically demarcating space with indelible themes of hedonism that open up the possibility of illicit drug use. Hybrid-consumption blurs the distinction between legal and illegal forms of intoxication, making the trading and consumption of illegal drugs appear like a natural feature of the consumer space. Branding demonstrates how participants construct intricate hierarchies of taste and credibility related to drug of choice. Performative labour re-enforces hybrid consumption, with participants working in the bounded play spaces of Ibiza immersed within the illicit drug market. Atmospheres represents the alchemic synergy of bounded play space and is important to understanding illicit drug use as a sensorial, deeply immersive but transitory experience.


This research offers Disneyization as a new conceptual framework for making sense of deeply complex spatial, socio-cultural, psychological and economic processes that underpin dynamic patterns of drug use in bounded play spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in International Journal of Drug Policy . Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in International Journal of Drug Policy, 58, (2018) DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.04.018

© 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


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