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Women's Gender Performances And Cultural Heterogeneity In The Illegal Drug Economy


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Based on interviews with 32 female drug dealers in Norway, this study investigates different gender performances among women situated in the illegal hard drug economy—a context with strong gendered “rules of the game.” Using grounded theory methods, I have identified four predominant patterns in which women enact their gendered identities being part of the drug economy: performing emphasized femininity in the context of marginalization; performing street masculinity; employing a feminine business model; and last, flexible use of cultural repertoires. The findings suggest that different gender performances among dealers are rooted in variations in the cultural tool kits they have at their disposal. I find that the content of women's cultural tool kits varied with three sociodemographic factors: 1) age, 2) time of entrée to the drug economy, and 3) educational and employment history. Combined, these influenced the type of gender performances the dealers tended to use as well as their position in the drug market hierarchy. The research suggests that those dealers using cultural repertoires flexibly are the most successful as they skillfully employed the model best suited for the context they were in.