Heavy drinking as phenomenon: gender and agency in accounts of men’s heavy drinking

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Alcohol consumption is a significant public health concern in Australia, with men disproportionately represented in treatment for health issues related to heavy drinking. Despite this, little is known about the experiences of these men or the gender dynamics that may shape heavy drinking. Increasingly, the treatment of alcohol and other drug-related issues, including those related to heavy drinking, is based on a biopsychosocial approach. Within this framework, heavy drinking is understood as a symptom of individual pathology in the context of various social ‘factors’ that influence individual capacity to exercise agency. Following the work of Karen Barad, this article employs a feminist science studies account of agency to formulate heavy drinking as a gendered ‘phenomenon’: enacted and sustained through the ‘intra-action’ of other phenomena. Drawing on interviews with men who drink heavily, our analysis explores how the phenomenon of men’s heavy drinking materialises through the intra-actions of gender, isolation and healthcare. We argue that heavy drinking is not a sign of failed individual agency but an expression of entangled agencies. In concluding, we suggest it is possible to enhance the well-being of men who drink heavily by addressing specific gendered intra-actions in the making of heavy drinking.

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Fomiatti, R., Savic, M., Fraser, S., Edwards, M., & Farrugia, A. (2020). Heavy drinking as phenomenon: gender and agency in accounts of men’s heavy drinking. Health Sociology Review. https://doi.org/10.1080/14461242.2020.1850317

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