The intimacies of drug dealing narcotics, kinship and embeddedness in Nicaragua and South Afric...

Steffen JENSEN

In this article, we explore how and to what extent it is useful to think about drug dealing through the conceptual lens of intimacy. Such an approach both complements and challenges mainstream views on drug dealing, which see the phenomenon as based on ‘formal-rational’ organisation and practices. We explore the intimacies of drug dealing along three axes: the involvement of kin and family, ‘governing intimacy’ and as embedded in culturally intimate models and ideas. Drawing on our collaborative ethnographic research in Nicaragua and South Africa, we illustrate first how family and kin are implicated in drug dealing, both voluntarily and against their will. Secondly, we explore how drug dealing institutes or produces particular forms of order, often entangled with state and policing governance, folding itself into communal and family relations. Finally, we consider the extent to which drug dealing enters into local notions and rationalities, from models of how to be a ‘good’ drug dealer to how one’s daughter should conduct her love life. These analyses allow us to suggest new avenues for research on drug dealing that foreground social embeddedness and gender relations.