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Managing dramaturgical dilemmas: youth drinking and multiple identities

Hayley Cocker (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Maria Piacentini (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Emma Banister (Manchester University, Manchester, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 March 2018

Issue publication date: 16 April 2018



This paper aims to understand how young people manage the dramaturgical dilemmas related to drinking alcohol and performing multiple identities.


Drawing on qualitative data collected with 16-18-year olds, the authors adopt Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective to examine youth alcohol consumption in relation to multiple identities.


Young people continuously and skilfully juggle multiple identities across multiple contexts, where identities overflow and audiences and interactions overlap. Techniques of audience segregation, mystification and misrepresentation and justification are used to perform and manage multiple identities in a risky health behaviour context.

Research limitations/implications

The approach may facilitate some over- and under-claiming. Future studies could observe young people’s performances of self across multiple contexts, paying particular attention to how alcohol features in these performances.

Practical implications

Social marketing campaigns should demonstrate an understanding of how alcohol relates to the contexts of youth lives beyond the “night out” and engage more directly with young peoples’ navigation between different identities, contexts and audiences. Campaigns could tap into the secretive nature of youth alcohol consumption and discourage youth from prioritising audience segregation and mystification above their own safety.


Extant work has argued that consumers find multiplicity unmanageable or manage multiple identities through internal dialogue. Instead, this paper demonstrates how young people manage multiple identities through interaction and performance. This study challenges the neat compartmentalisation of identities identified in prior literature and Goffman’s clear-cut division of performances into front and back stage.



This work was part of a larger project on youth, identity and consumption supported by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentship. The authors would like to thank the young people who participated in this study. The authors would also like to thank the AE and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive suggestions that greatly contributed to improving this manuscript.


Cocker, H., Piacentini, M. and Banister, E. (2018), "Managing dramaturgical dilemmas: youth drinking and multiple identities", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 52 No. 5/6, pp. 1305-1328.



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