Anthropologist , Research Fellow at the University of Kent and Research Affiliate at the University of Oxford , Drug use and social cohesion
Martha’s research centres on group bonding, ritual, and community. The populations and methodologies she works with are diverse: from complex reoffending analyses with people in prison; to investigating football fans’ stress hormones at live World Cup matches in Brazil; to interviewing rave participants in warehouses across London; or running surveys with fundamentalist Muslims and hardcore football fans (ultras or torcidas organizadas) in Indonesia, Australia, and Brazil. Her recent work has quantitatively examined drug use and social cohesion among subgroups, including associations between cocaine use and disorderly behaviour among football fans.
Drug use among combative groups is nothing new, from Vikings using psychedelic mushrooms to Nazis ‘speeding up’ war with methamphetamine. Now, football-related disorder is frequently associated with cocaine use among football fans. In this talk I discuss results from the first study to quantify the link, with a survey of 1,486 British football fans. Cocaine use was reported by 6% of fans. Fans who used cocaine reported significantly more aggression toward rivals than fans who did not. Interestingly, fans who reported being bonded to their clubs and used cocaine were especially likely to have behaved aggressively toward rivals. Football cultures mirrors wider societies, be it in social issues or drug use: increasing threat levels with heavy handed policing designed to curb drug use will likely only exacerbate a perceived need to ‘protect’ and ‘defend’ one’s group.