Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Raves, Risks and the Ecstacy Panic: A Case Study in the Subversive Nature of Moral Regulation (1)

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Raves, Risks and the Ecstacy Panic: A Case Study in the Subversive Nature of Moral Regulation (1)

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper interrogates the anxieties which crystallized in the summer of 2000 concerning the uses and abuses of ecstacy at local raves in Toronto, Ontario. Canada. Despite the fact that concerted efforts were made on the part of a host of "moral entrepreneurs" to extinguish raves held on city-owned property, Toronto's rave communities were able to subvert the moralizing discourse designed to characterize them "at risk," simultaneously manipulating the same discursive technique to amplify the risks associated with terminating "legal" raves in the city of Toronto. Conceptually situated in the sociology of moral regulation, the analysis explicates the fluid character of media discourses and the dynamic interplay of social agents in the social construction, and subversion, of moral panic.

Resume: Ce memoire etudie I'anxiete qui s'est cristallisee a I'ete 2000 quant a la prise et a l'abus de prise d'ecstasy lors des raves qui ont lieu a Toronto en Ontario (Canada). Malgre les efforts concentres de plusieurs [much greater than]autorites morales[much less than] qui cherchaient a eliminer les raves se produisant sur les terrains appartenant a la ville, les groupes de raveurs ont pu detourner le discours moralisateur qui les presentait comme un risque pour la societe, tout en manipulant la meme technique de discours pour amplifier les risques associes a I'interdiction des raves [much greater than]legales[much less than] dans la ville de Toronto. Concue sur le plan de la sociologie des reglements moraux. cette analyse explique le caractere fluide du discours des medias et l'interaction dynamique des agents sociaux dans la construction sociale et la subversion de la panique morale.

...in every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organized and redistributed by a certain number of procedures whose role is to ward off its powers and dangers, to gain mastery over its chance events, to evade its ponderous, formidable materiality ... [but] as history constantly teaches us, discourse is not simply that which translates struggles or systems of domination, but is a thing for which and by which there is struggle, discourse is the power which is to be seized (Foucault, 1981:52-53).

Introduction

Set within the discursive context of a series of media stories surrounding the deaths of three young adults who had ingested the designer drug ecstacy in 1999, the summer of 2000 was witness to heightened media attention concerning rave dance parties held in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Following the initial coverage in 1999, Toronto city council unanimously passed "The Protocol for the Operation of Safe Dance Events/Raving" at the urging of the Toronto Dance Safety Committee. The document offered several guidelines designed with the intention of regulating raves held in Toronto, placing particular importance on the search for venues which offered adequate facilities for the large number of people who attend raves. While The Protocol was generally accepted by organizations representing rave communities as a progressive and valuable instrument capable of facilitating a greater degree of safety for ravers, when the Ontario coroner's inquest into the death of Toronto university student Allan Ho was init iated in May, 2000, Toronto's Mayor introduced a motion which sought to ban raves from city-owned property. In the ensuing weeks, raves became an object of contestation and debate, as several city representatives intensified their efforts to terminate raves under the auspices of the "Entertainment Gatherings Protocol." The discursive vehicle through which this project was carried out, however, evaded a direct focus on the leisure space of the rave, alternatively highlighting the purported dangers associated with the use and distribution of ecstacy.

The city's shifting mandate provides an interesting case study for the sociologies of moral regulation and moral panic. …

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