Accepted paper:

Embodying Counterculture: Cannabis Consumption and 'Dropping Out' in Hawai'i


Lucy Pickering (The University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

Drop outs in Hawai‘i smoke a lot of cannabis. It is central to the local economy, and local ideas about pleasure and health. Examining intergenerational difference regarding the properties of ‘good’ ‘erb (cannabis), this paper explores continuity and change in the role this substance plays in living ‘counter’ to American ‘culture’.

Paper long abstract:

Cannabis, or 'erb as it is known locally, is a substance which is economic mainstay, medicine and recreational drug of choice within a group of 'drop outs' in Hawai'i. Drawing on ethnography with Americans who have relocated to the islands in order to 'drop out' of US society - to consciously position themselves on the periphery, if one will, of American cultural life, economy and territory - I seek to unpack the significance of this substance to this community. As recreational drug of choice for almost all, source of income for many, and central to health and wellbeing for some, it cuts across work, pleasure, everyday social interaction and personal wellbeing. 'Erb also operates, I contend, as an icon of 1960s counterculture, as a consumable, ingestible, embodied icon of dropping out of a perceived American mainstream. This paper thus explores the place of cannabis within this drop out community in relation to both its economic, social and health roles, and as substance that facilitates the embodiment of a 1960s (-inspired) countercultural identity. Yet this assertion of iconic status masks important intergenerational differences between young elite growers and their older, countercultural counterparts. Cannabis operates as both marker of continuity with a 1960s counterculture, but also rupture; while it is universally consumed across the generations, ideas about what constitutes 'good' 'erb expose profound intergenerational differences about what is being embodied in the act of smoking and the capacity of cannabis to (continue to) facilitate the embodiment of a countercultural 'drop out' identity.

panel G25
Missing out on manifest destiny: anthropology on the periphery of the American dream