Space, Drugs and Disneyfication
: An Ethnography of British Youth in Ibiza

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Study Aims: This study aims to provide an innovative ‘ground up’ interpretation of the lived experience of illicit drug use amongst British tourists and seasonal workers on the Balearic island of Ibiza, the global capital of electronic dance music.

Methods: Ethnographic fieldwork employing a grounded theory design was undertaken over the summers of 2010, 2011 and 2012 in a range of Ibiza tourist locations including nightclubs, bars, cafes, beaches, airports and hotels. Observations were supplemented with interviews, focus groups, informal conversations and documentary photography.

Findings: The four pillars of Disneyization, defined by Bryman (2004) as theming, merchandising, hybrid consumption and performative labour, are used to contextualise the differential normalisation of illicit drugs within bounded spaces of Ibiza. Immersive atmosphere is proposed as a fifth pillar of Disneyization, as such spaces incorporate the staging of spectacular events that envelop British tourists and seasonal workers into a theme park like arena offering temporal pleasures of drug use and hedonistic excess.

Conclusion: Ethnographic engagement with tourists and seasonal workers in Ibiza reveals that drug use on the island is a complex entanglement of Disneyized structure, agency, and a multitude of sensual pleasures. These findings challenge the dominant political and criminological ideology that consistently and simplistically represents such drug use as inherently senseless and pathological.

Implications: Three implications emanate from this research. Firstly, an ideological shift within criminology is recommended, with researchers engaging drug users from the ‘bottom up’ to counter dominant narratives of control. Secondly, it is recommended that the theory of Disneyization should be used to develop a more nuanced understanding of drug use within bounded spaces such as music festivals and nightclubs. Finally, those involved in harm reduction initiatives need to acknowledge the temporal risk distortion that occurs within Disneyized space, as this has implications for the health and wellbeing of those involved.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorAnthony Colombo (Supervisor)

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