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‘‘If there is no alcohol, there is no party”: Social pressures, alcohol consumption and social identity construction in Nigerian students’ parties

Emeka W. Dumbili


Alcohol consumpton and its related problems are rising among Nigerian students, and factors such as social pressures to drink or drink more, social identty constructon with heavy drinking, students’ partes and other contextual factors contribute to these problems. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 31 male and female undergraduate students atending a Nigerian University, this study explores how students employ alcohol to construct social identty and develop social capital in party contexts. The fndings show that for a social event to be ‘qualifed’ as a ‘party’, alcohol must be served. While the brands of alcohol served in each party are associated with social class, the meanings atached to drinking in partes and drinking motves are fuid. The fndings further show that entertaining guests with foreign and/or expensive alcoholic beverages confers a higher social status on the host than serving locally-made/ cheap brands. Also, the larger the quantty served, the higher the host is ranked on the social ladder. Consequently, young people employ the promise of sumptuous beverages to woo potental party atendees to their partes. Males are generally wooed because they will drink free and expensive alcohol while females tend to perceive the host as possessing a higher economic status; thus, they want to associate with him. At the same tme, the ability to outdrink peers during gendered ‘drinking games’ is used to construct a range of social identtes and to develop social capital. The use of alcohol to construct social identty and social pressure to drink among students should be addressed through health educaton and reorientaton. Public health interventons that will reduce alcohol availability on and around campuses should also be implemented in Nigeria.

Keywords: Alcohol, gender, Nigeria, party, social capital, identty, students