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Random Riches - Emma CASEY

Patterns and Strategies of Risk at Home: Gambling and Households

This paper draws on findings of a research project entitled ‘Gambling and Households’ which resulted in the concept of what I call ‘gambling identities’. In this I draw on sociological theory to argue that although concepts of risk and chance have long featured heavily on sociological agendas, these concepts have rarely been expanded to fully incorporate the operation of risk and chance within domestic and intimate settings. The absence of a fully theorised position on risk and chance as governing principle for everyday domestic and intimate practices is particularly problematic for those concerned with untangling the relationships between home and gambling. In particular, a more nuanced account of risk is necessary that includes for example how emotions of hope and desire are interwoven with and find their expression via discourses and practices of gambling.

The cultural theorist Ulrich Beck argues that reflexive practices of modernity enable individuals to seek new ways of exerting control over a future increasingly characterised by economic uncertainty. To an extent the above mentioned project echoed this view. My research develops current understandings of risk by examining gambling scenarios in domestic and private settings. It considers family stories, histories and narratives of gambling and considers how these help to reproduce and formulate gambling identities.

The paper supports recent work which has drawn attention to the need for more research into the impact of gambling on families. My intention is to locate gambling and risk within a sociological context by focusing on the various ways in which gambling identities are formulated via everyday experiences and processes of risk. I show that gambling is a normative social process which is deeply entrenched in patterns and routines of everyday life and is notoriously difficult to research.

Emma CASEY
is a Senior lecturer in Sociology at Kingston University, London. She focuses on domestic economies and forms of consumption, including gambling, from a gender  perspective. In 2008, she published “Women. pleasure and the gambling experience”.