Alcohol in Africa: Mixing Business, Pleasure, and Politics
Alcohol in Sub-Saharan Africa has historically been a conduit for religious and political expression controlled by male elders. Over the past century and especially during the last two crisis-ridden decades, alcohol's ceremonial role has been largely displaced. Rapid income differentiation and economic marginalization have spurred production and consumption of alcohol. In many localities, expanding supply has led to drinking patterns that impinge on general social welfare. These circumstances coincide with the continent-wide implementation of structural adjustment and economic liberalization policies. One might ask, have those policies driven people to drink?
Currently, alcohol is a taboo subject for donors and African governments alike, yet it is at the nexus of many of the continent's most pressing problems. Agricultural sector decline, large-scale labor redundancy, household instability, and AIDS have cause or effect linkages to changing alcohol usage. This edited collection explores the economic, political, and social meanings of alcohol usage. The material is contextualized within a review of existing anthropological, social history, and social welfare literature on alcohol, and a broad historical overview of the continental trends in alcohol production and consumption. Both the pleasure and the pain of alcohol usage emerge, providing insight into the ambiguity of alcohol in Africa today.
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Social and Psychological Value The intensely social nature of drinking surfaces
as one of the most salient themes of the African literature. Alcohol and
intoxication are conceptualized as a stimulus that "provide[s] material and
symbolic means ...
On balance, their work stresses alcohol's role as a facilitator of sociability, alcohol
rituals' symbolic mediation of social order, alcohol usage patterns' demarcation of
social status, and the material culture associated with alcohol production, ...
Urban life provided exciting opportunities for the fashioning of new social
networks and the accumulation of cash. Among young migrants in coastal towns,
drinking circles replaced the family and kin networks abandoned in rural areas
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