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An intertextual analysis of the collegiate drinking culture

Thomas Arthur Workman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The construction of collegiate binge drinking as a social problem in America has created a strong interest in the social science, prevention, and policy fields. As a result, a number of academic inquiries are being conducted to better inform policy and prevention strategies. The purpose of this study is to examine the collegiate drinking issue from a cultural perspective, exploring the intertextual web of messages from commercial, institutional, historical and peer arenas in order to explain the ways in which meaning is formed for college students as they engage in drinking rituals and practices. Employing both ethnographic and critical methodology, the study looks at ways in which a drinking habitus is formed and perpetuated. ^ The study finds that consumerism plays a significant role in the creation of meaning for college drinkers. Consumerism both establishes alcohol as an essential commodity but also signifies it as a form of lifestyle where consumers are socially successful, sexually fulfilled, and representative of an upper class that expresses itself in a “poverty-chic.” ^ The study also finds that the articulation of consumerism to libertarianism explains much of the rebellion against past and current control efforts, and suggests that the two ideologies offers prevention a specific challenge. Finally, the study finds that consumerism is developed as habitus and passed on to future generations with little or no critical examination of the symbols and signifiers that are attached to the activity. Ultimately, a “college drinking myth” is perpetuated that drives dangerous practices. Prevention specialists interested in changing these practices must reconstruct meanings attached to the consumption of alcohol in order to change culture. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Workman, Thomas Arthur, "An intertextual analysis of the collegiate drinking culture" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3004629.