The purpose of this project is to study various perspectives on ‘open drug scenes’ in Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. A central part of the project has also been to map where the open drug scenes are, and have been, geographically located since they first appeared, and why they appeared in these locations in particular. I have researched the approaches and attitudes of the users, the police, and the business community to open drug scenes.
The main research questions for this project are: “How are open drug scenes experienced by the users, and how do the police, the public authorities, and the business community experience the open drug scenes? Where have the scenes been geographically located, and why have the scenes moved or, alternately, remained stable?” I have examined these questions for Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen in order to find similarities and differences among the three cities in regards to where open drug scenes are located, how long they have remained in the same place, how many times they have [been] moved, as well as the experiences of these scenes by the police, business community, and the users. Open drug scenes are areas where relatively large groups of drug users congregate in public. The reasons why users congregate in specific places may include the buying and selling of drugs and other goods, and there may also be reasons of a social nature. In the present context, there are primarily users of hard drugs such as heroin, amphetamine, and benzodiazepines.
In Oslo the present open drug scene is found around the lower part of the main promenade street Karl Johans Gate, right by Oslo Central Station. The drug scene in Copenhagen is located in the neighborhood of Vesterbro, particularly in the area around the street Istedgate and Copenhagen Central Station. Stockholm presently has many small and dispersed open drug scenes, some centrally located downtown and several in the suburbs. The three cities have three rather different stories in relation to their respective open drug scenes. Oslo is the city where the drug users have most frequently been moved about. The gathering areas have been roughly eight different places in Oslo since the late ‘60s. In Copenhagen the scene has largely remained in one place, in addition to a few areas for the use of hashish and a morphine scene in the ‘60s. In Stockholm the scene has always been located at Sergelstorg square in the heart of the city, but several additional scenes have appeared over the last 10 years. The approach of the police and the business community to the scenes in the three cities are different, but so are the drug policies of their countries as well as the geographic locations of the scenes. Some are located in residential areas, whereas others are found in commercial districts. The use of the open drug scenes in the three cities are also of different natures, as regards the purposes for the use of the scene, the type of drugs used, and how social interaction and drug transactions take place, among other things. The different users’ interest organizations I spoke with nevertheless reported approximately similar experiences of, and approaches and attitudes to, the scenes.
I will analyze the empirical results in light of urban social theory as well as Mary Douglas’ theories concerning the clean/unclean and order/disorder. I will further examine whether the commercialization of public space may influence the relationship of the various actors to open drug scenes, and whether this has and will have practical consequences for the scenes. Concerning the latter, I will particularly concentrate on Sharon Zukin’s idea of Disneyfication, the aesthetic cleansing of space, new grey areas between the private and the public, and which consequences this may have in relation to exclusion and inclusion in the public sphere. Additionally, I will analyze the material in light of risk theory and the focus on fear.