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Author of the Month: Dina Perrone

Published: May 16, 2011

The High Life: Club Kids, Harm and Drug Policy

Dina Perrone, assistant professor, Criminal Justice

Released in 2009 by Lynne-Rienner Publishers, The High Life: Club Kids, Harm and Drug Policy includes interviews through its 261 pages with New York City drug users who self-identify as dance club kids. The book describes the 15 months Perrone spent on the club circuit with subjects ranging in age from 22 to 33 in clubs everywhere from New York City, the Hamptons and the Jersey Shore to Miami. Perrone uses ethnographic research to illuminate the club kids’ subculture, describe their patterns of drug use and explore the factors that protect them from arrests and illness. Her one-on-one interviews portray how her subjects maintain middle-class lifestyles despite engaging in drug use. Perrone situates the club kids in a historical perspective as a subculture with distinctive rituals, styles, tastes and cultural norms. Her study argues that there are those who are less likely to experience negative consequences of drug use if they have money, jobs, “cultural capital” (how well one hangs with the higher echelons) or “human capital” (personal skill sets). Her study argues that those who are embedded in a conventional life with a job and family are less likely to experience such negative consequences of drug use as overdoses and arrests. Her research began with a visit to a New York City dance club where she happened to meet a young man who grew up in her neighborhood. “He was my gatekeeper,” she said. It wasn’t until four or five months had passed that she began to convince potential interviewees to sit down for two-hour recorded interviews for which they were compensated with $20 Macy’s and Bloomingdale gift cards. Drugs of choice included ecstasy, crystal methamphetamine, GHB, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and alcohol. A few even smoked cigarettes. “These individuals are under the radar,” she said. “They are not in and out of drug treatments, they’re not in and out of the criminal justice system and they’re not hanging out on Skid Row. They stay in really nice hotels and own property and drive nice cars. Some have great jobs. And they do a lot of drugs on the weekend. They are primarily weekend warriors.” Perrone comes to CSULB from an assistant professorship at Bridgewater State College. She earned her twin bachelor’s degrees (political science and sociology) from the State University of New York and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University in Newark. The Long Beach resident joined the university in 2010.

Author of the Month