CFP – Alcohol in Transition (AAA 2023)


Alcohol in Transition: Conflict and Encounter in our Social Worlds

Panel Co-Organizers: Christina Tekie Collins (Indiana University Bloomington, and Brandon D. Lundy (Kennesaw State University,

* Please send your title, affiliation and contact information, abstract (maximum of 3,500 characters including spaces), and 5-6 keywords by March 16, 2023, for consideration by email to the panel organizers. 

Panel Proposal Abstract

Alcohol, as a special class of food-drug, is a rich ethnographic object for the study of both unity and discord. Alcohol as a social lubricant, facilitator, and binder brings people and communities together around life events. However, drinking also often acts as a catalyst in the moments leading up to dispute and discord. Attitudes and actions surrounding the production, distribution, sale, and consumption of alcohol are sites of social, cultural, political, economic, religious, medical, and environmental tension. This panel explores how alcohol serves as a useful lens for exploring the socio-cultural processes of conflict and its reconciliation. Specifically, in line with this year’s theme, Transitions, we examine how conflict emerges through encounter-not in a causal, but liminal sense-the build-up, the bubbling, and the brewing before the bonding or blowout. 

What story does alcohol tell us about conflict, as a social process, in transition? The anthropological literature on alcohol either examines drinking as a cultural act that gives insight into our social worlds (Douglas 1987; Heath 2000) or emphasizes a public health perspective through research on intoxication, addiction, and other harmful drinking practices (Babor et al. 2023; Singer 2012). Hunt and Barker (2001) call for scholars to conceptually bridge this divide-arguably, a divide that arises from alcohol’s status as an embodied material culture that is simultaneously food and drug-or “food with difference” (Dietler 2006; Dietler and Herbich 2006, 398). As a food, alcohol indexes the richness of social life as a marker of cultural, linguistic, racial/ethnic, religious, political, gender, generational, and class identities; but, as a drug, alcohol’s psychoactive and intoxicating properties makes it a potent and paradoxical agent of social tradition, transformation, transgression, and trauma. Over the last two decades, several scholars have addressed this divide through the study of alcoholism and Alcohol Anonymous (AA) globally (Borovoy 2005; Christensen 2015, Raikhel 2016). However, how might an approach that more broadly interrogates the relationship between alcohol and conflict, in transition, further bridge such divergent conversations? 

From compulsion to addiction; conviviality to belligerence; legality to illegality; and indigenous production to commercialization, we invite papers that explore the relationship between alcohol and conflict. This may include research that examines transitional states of being (e.g., soberness to intoxication); mediations between material-spiritual realms (i.e., alcohol in religious ritual); regional, national, and/or global rivalries (e.g., corporate versus craft alcohol production); prohibition and resistance (e.g., informal brewing/distilling versus state regulation); alcohol as a symbol of repression or resistance; and the many other tensions arising from our everyday encounters with alcohol. Overall, we ask, in what ways does alcohol challenge our conception of conflict, in transition, or even transition, in conflict, to better understand our ever-changing, turbulent, social realities in an increasingly globalized world.  


Babor, Thomas F., Sally Casswell, Kathryn Graham, Taisia Huckle, Michael Livingston, Esa Österberg, Jürgen Rehm, Robin Room, Ingeborg Rossow, and Bundit Sornpaisarn. 2023. Alcohol: No ordinary commodity: Research and public policy. Third Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 

Borovoy, Amy. 2005. The Too-Good Wife: Alcohol, Codependence, and the Politics of Nurturance in Postwar Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

Christensen, Paul. 2015. Japan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity: Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.  

Dietler, Michael. 2006. “Alcohol: Anthropological/Archaeological Perspectives,” Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 229-49. 

Dietler, Michael, and Ingrid Herbich. 2006. “Liquid Material Culture: Following the Flow of Beer Among the Luo of Kenya.” In Grundlegungen. Beiträge zur europäischen und afrikanischen Archäologie für Manfred K. H. Eggert,edited by Hans-Peter Wotzka, 395-407. Tübingen: Francke.  

Heath, Dwight. 2000. Drinking Occasions: Comparative Perspectives on Alcohol and Culture. New York: Routledge.  

Hunt, Geoffrey, and Judith C. Barker. 2001. “Socio-cultural anthropology and alcohol and drug research: Towards a unified theory.” Social Science & Medicine 53(2): 165-88.  

Raikhel, Eugene. 2016. Governing Habits: Treating Alcoholism in the Post-Soviet Clinic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 

Singer, Merrill. 2012. “Anthropology and addiction: An historical review.” Addiction 107(10): 1747-55.