Beer and belonging: real ale consumption, place and identity

2017-09-19T13:43:32Z (GMT) by Thomas Thurnell-Read
The role played by alcohol and its consumption in the creation of personal, group and national identity has received considerable academic attention. A central feature of this has been the recognition that, in addition to the many potential negative personal and social outcomes of heavy drinking, the consumption of alcoholic drinks invariably involves significant articulations of personal identity, collective belonging and, as Mary Douglas and her co-authors (1987) have established, the construction and perpetuation of culture itself. We must acknowledge, therefore, that alcoholic drinks exhibit remarkable symbolic power. Indeed, some even take on totemic positions in relation to national culture, history and identity; Roland Barthes (1972, 67) famously asserted that the performance of drinking wine ‘is a national technique which serves to qualify the Frenchman, to demonstrate at once the performance, his control and his sociability’ (Barthes 1972, 67). More recently, Marion Demossier (2010, 29) has used her extensive study of wine production and consumption in France to explore how ‘through wine consumption, individuals compete and construct their identity and relate to concepts of what it means to be French, exploring the relationship between regions and the nation’.