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Creeping edgework: carnivalesque consumption and the social experience of health risk

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Sociology of Health and Illness
Issue number8
Volume36
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1125-1140
Publication statusPublished
Early online date21/04/14
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article contributes to an understanding of voluntary health risk based on the regular, excessive intake of food and alcohol in the micro-cultural setting. By drawing on and extending edgework theory our aim is to conceptualise the riskiness of carnivalesque consumption as a medium for expression and performance in two separate community contexts. Using ethnographic research methods, we explore the consumption of calorie-dense, low nutrient food for gamers and the use of alcohol for hipsters. Our findings are reported over four key themes. The first and last consider how carnivalesque consumption provides sensations for multi-sensory loss of self and a shared emancipation from day-to-day moderation. The second and third explore how community members prepare and exercise control over their consumption to manage risks related to an ‘immediate edge’. We discuss how carnivalesque behaviour, when ritualised, establishes a trajectory that creeps towards a more ‘distant edge’ characterised by longer term health consequences. We argue that the transcendental experiences that are part and parcel of edgework can be enacted by products that are traditionally conceptualised as mundane and that the risks of consuming them are largely accumulative rather than instantaneous. Implications for health interventions are included.