4/21/2005

Beer and "Ethnicity"

[Ugh! I lost a first version of this post because of Blogger maintenance... Now I know why people complain...] The very first comment on my young blog is an extensive excerpt from Bob Skilnik's book on beer history. Thanks! The relationship between beer and "ethnicity" is really a fascinating issue. Some say that the movement leading to the federal prohibition was related to anti-German sentiment. Others associate it more closely with the growth in the political influence of some woman groups. The events were probably a combination of both and other causes. Similarly, the MADD lobby group probably had a large part to play in rising the drinking age to 21. All of these seem to relate to what Ruth C. Engs calls Clean Living Movements. Engs also has interesting articles available on health, alcohol, and social issues. For instance, binge drinking is a major problem on some US campuses and seems to be linked to a negative attitude toward alcohol. One concept that I'd like to explore a bit more is that of "moral entrepreneurs" who seem to be at the center of those movements and are trying to get ahead politically. The first exposure I got to the concept was in Mezz Mezzrow's Really the Blues. In that book (on Jazz musicians in the US between the two World Wars), moral entrepreneurs are associated to the change in legal status for cannabis in 1937. A Wikipedia article on cannabis associates the criminalisation of the herb to both DuPont's interest in plastic and to anti-Mexican sentiment (with the word "marihuana" resonating with that sentiment). No idea how accurate this explanation really is (it's always safer to take things with a grain of salt) but the associate with xenophobia is illuminating. Not that the US are the only place where sentiments against foreigners are brought forth. In fact, many parts of the world deal with issues of xenophobia, especially where the notion of a "nation-state" is still believed to mean something. What's interesting about the situation in the US is the fact that xenophobia seems to be so intimately linked with political, legal, and social issues. In a "country of immigrants" which recognizes itself as such, the situation is quite striking.

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