Introduction

Introduction

Throughout history and across the world, people have indulged in activities and substances that while stimulating and pleasurable also have detrimental effects upon the participant or user, especially if done to excess. These activities and substances include commonplace habits such as gambling, smoking, and drinking alcohol; they are often addictive and in the West are collectively grouped together as ‘vices’. Given their potential to cause harm, governments often seek to control and regulate these activities, particularly when they are done in highly visible public spaces. Similarly, most religions have injunctions against some or all of these ‘sinful’ pleasures. Popular attitudes towards these activities are diverse and often contradictory, however; ranging from acceptance and encouragement to condemnation and disgust. In turn, these differing responses are conditioned by political, economic and cultural factors that change over time. Crucially, this potential for contradictory attitudes means that vices frequently become areas of contestation between, for example, the state and its citizens or the colonisers and the colonised. As such, the management of these controversial activities and the spaces in which they are conducted provides vivid examples of how power is exerted, challenged and subverted.