Social Drinking in Cultural Context

By Janet Chrzan

© 2013 – Routledge

200 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415892506
pub: 2013-01-07
US Dollars$29.95
Hardback: 9780415892490
pub: 2013-01-07
US Dollars$145.00

Look Inside e–Inspection Copy Companion Website

About the Book

Alcohol: Social Drinking in Cultural Context critically examines alcohol use across cultures and through time. This short text is a framework for students to self-consciously examine their beliefs about and use of alcohol, and a companion text for teaching the primary concepts of anthropology to first-or second year college students.


This is a phenomenal book. A good shot of history, equal parts anthropology and media analysis and a dash of wit and wisdom. This is the most sensible and balanced approach to alcohol consumption I have ever read. It should be required of all college students.

--Ken Albala, History, University of the Pacific

Instantly engaging, Janet Chrzan's historical and cross-cultural overview of views and practices related to alcohol as a "nurturing beverage" or "dangerous drug," brings to life the value of anthropological analysis to university students. Making a compelling case for alcohol as a "total social fact," enmeshed as it is with so many other facets of social life, Chrzan masterfully portrays the social meanings of alcohol use.

- Andrea Wiley, Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington

This lively and accessible book bubbles with intriguing details about the history and culture of alcohol consumption from the earliest archaeological evidence to contemporary U.S. college students’ arresting drinking diaries. It is an engaging introduction to anthropology which encourages critical thinking about the practices and meanings of campus drinking."

- Carole Counihan, Anthropology, Millersville University

This book should be required reading for any college student who has pre-gamed, bar-hopped, tail-gated, shot-gunned, played beer-pong, or done a beer bong. Janet Chrzan puts American drinking cultures in theoretical and comparative perspective, offering practical advice for limiting the harms of alcohol while still enjoying it sociably.

--Jeffrey M. Pilcher, History, University of Minnesota

Janet Chrzan has captured the all-encompassing hold of alcoholic beverages on our species from prehistoric villages to the modern college campus. Whether drinker or abstainer, we come away from this book with a better understanding of what drives us toward or away from this most paradoxical and universal of substances. By turns, alcohol can be viewed as inspirational and socializing, nutritional and medicinal, relaxing and restorative, or dangerous and destructive

-- Patrick McGovern, Ph.D. Scientific Director, Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

As a food historian who appreciates the long view of history, I heartily welcome this refreshing and highly useful book on the social implications of alcohol. With a balanced selection of material past and present, this is the perfect classroom guide to the basic issues and mores that have defined the role of alcohol down through time. It enlightens the student, invites self-examination, and hopefully provides a lasting framework for dealing with alcohol as a potent and yet highly deceptive medium for socialization

. --Dr. William Woys Weaver, Director, The Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism

Janet Chrzan has written a probing, insightful (and incidentally often very amusing) study of alcohol use, alcoholism, intoxication, social drinking, and the role alcohol plays in many cultures, including, most specifically, our own. Her broad look at the problematic role of alcohol in American history is fascinating on its own; peeling back the layers of meaning in alcohol use and the social messages it conveys, she reveals a context that can frame much more of our social habits and beliefs.

-- Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of The New Mediterranean Diet and many other books about Mediterranean food, wine, and culinary traditions

Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments 1. Introduction: Why is Drinking Interesting? 2. Alcohol in the Ancient World 3. Barbarians and Beerpots: European Drinking from the Celts to Victoria 4. A Short History of American Drinking 5. It’s Happy Hour! Modern American Drinking 6. Alcohol Advertising 7. Why do Students Drink? 8.Conclusion: Why do People Drink? Bibliography

About the Author

Janet Chrzan received a Ph.D. in Nutritional Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.

About the Series

Routledge Series for Creative Teaching and Learning in Anthropology

Editors: Richard H. Robbins, SUNY at Plattsburgh and Luis A. Vivanco, University of Vermont 

This series is dedicated to innovative, unconventional ways to connect undergraduate students and their lived concerns about our social world to the power of social science ideas and evidence. We seek to publish titles that use anthropology to help students understand how they benefit from exposing their own lives and activities to the power of anthropological thought and analysis. Our goal is to help spark social science imaginations and, in doing so, open new avenues for meaningful thought and action.

Books proposed for this series should pose questions and problems that speak to the complexities and dynamism of modern life, connecting cutting edge research in exciting and relevant topical areas with creative pedagogy. We seek writing that is clear and accessible, yet not simplistic. The series has three primary projects:

The Anthropology of Stuff

This project invites proposals for 100 to 120 page books devoted to tracing the biographies and social lives of commodities that illuminate for students the network of people, institutions, and activities that create their material world. The series already has successful titles on milk, coffee, lycra, counterfeit goods, bicycles, Wal-Mart, and alcohol, as well as a forthcoming title on seafood. We seek books that:

  • Focus on specific problems or issues (e.g. social inequality, violence, gender discrimination, consumption, environmental degradation, urban mobility, etc.).
  • Use close description and analysis of everyday objects to stimulate students to think about their own culture and their place in it.
  • Make complex concepts (e.g. capitalism, the nature of hegemony, commodification, etc.) accessible to undergraduate readers.
  • Integrate a set of learning and teaching tools that could include the use of field research projects, group projects, media analysis, films, web-based research, and other relevant activities.

Anthropology and Civic Engagement

This project invites proposals for 100 to 120 page books that examine anthropology’s historical, contemporary, or potential involvement in civic affairs, contributions to key public debates, and/or engagement with diverse notions of citizenship and civic participation. Its goal is to illuminate for students how anthropological concepts, methods, and approaches can create powerful insights about critical social issues, while at the same time providing useful models for civic engagement for the construction of a more equitable society. We seek books that:

  • Focus on specific problems or issues (e.g., the health care debate, school violence, environmental activism, historic preservation, gender inequality, intellectual property, equity and social justice movements, food justice, rights of marginalized groups, etc.).
  • Help students understand how concepts such as citizenship, engagement, public participation, collaboration, activism, etc. are constructed and mobilized in specific political and social contexts.
  • Examine how anthropology’s concepts, methodological tools, and ethical principles relate to strategic and effective engagement with public concerns and dilemmas.
  • Integrate a set of learning and teaching tools that could include the use of field research projects, group projects, media analysis, films, web-based research, and other relevant activities.

High-Impact Anthropology

This project invites proposals for 150-350 page introductory texts that integrate high impact teaching and learning practices with treatment of specific topical areas that are the focus on undergraduate courses in anthropology. These specific topical areas could include Anthropology of Religion, Economic Anthropology, Political Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, Environmental Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality, etc. The texts should examine the development of the field and provide coverage of key concepts and theories. At the same time, they should integrate high-impact educational practices into the structure of the text and its features. These practices could include:

  • Problem-centered learning
  • Question-based learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Community-based learning
  • Writing-intensive approaches
  • Experiential learning
  • Co-curricular learning
  • Field-based learning


If you have a proposal that you believe would fit into the series in one of its three project areas, or if you have any questions about the series, please contact Richard Robbins at, or Luis Vivanco at

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General