Alcohol is not only big business, it has become an essential part of social relations in so many cultures that its global importance may be outdistancing its critics. Despite grim health warnings, its consumption is at an all-time high in many parts of the developed world. Perhaps because drinking has always played a key role in identity, its uses and meanings show no signs of abating. What does sake tell us about Japan or burgundy about France? How does the act of consuming or indeed abstaining from alcohol tie in with self-presentation, ethnicity, class and culture? How important is alcohol to feelings of belonging and notions of resistance?Answering these intriguing questions and many more, this timely book looks at alcohol consumption across cultures and what drinking means to the people who consume or, equally tellingly, refuse to consume. From Ireland to Hong Kong, Mexico to Germany, alcohol plays a key role in a wide range of functions religious, familial, social, even political.
Drinking Cultures situates its consumption within the context of these wider cultural practices and reveals how class, ethnicity and nationalism are all expressed through this very popular commodity. Drawing on original fieldwork, contributors look at the interplay of culture and power in bars and pubs, the significance of advertising symbols, the role of drink in day-to-day rituals and much more. The result is the first sustained, cross-cultural study of the profound impact alcohol has on national identity throughout the world today.
'An ethnographic pub crawl around the world. By examining drinking habits from rural Japan to gangland Los Angeles, these essays peer deep into the collective souls of societies, revealing their hopes and anxieties. Thomas Wilson has made an important contribution to the anthropology of alcohol.' Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity 'It offers a fascinating insight into how and why people drink in different cultures.' Hudson Cattell, Wine East 'The editor of this voulme has taken Mary Douglas's (1987) concept of 'constructive drinking' and run with it, producing an imaginative and innovative volume that gives new perspectives on ethnicity and identity as well as on alcohol use and its outcomes...As such, it [Drinking Cultures] consitutes a substantial contribution to our knowledge about drinking patterns in cross-cultural and cross-national perspective. At the same time, the varied but recurrent emphasis on identity, ethnicity and social interaction makes these papers relevant to many other social scientists, even if they have not before thought of alcohol as a window on the world.' Dwight B. Heath, Brown University, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (Vol 12, No 2, June 2006)