As a senior, done with almost all my major requirements, I get to take classes for funsies now and one of them that made the cut was Intro to Cultural Anthropology with a professor about whom I had heard a ton of great stuff. His research during the 80s focused on alcohol use in young adults in college and shed some light on the truth behind drinking cultures at small schools in the middle of nowhere. What he and others found dispells the myth that there is an epidemic of binge drinking in college.
So, he assigned his book A Bagful of Locusts and the Baboon Woman: Constructions of Gender, Change, and Continuity in Botswana and the chapter that caught my eye was “The Baboon Woman”: Of Coke Cans, Beers, and the Construction of Gender. He discusses the historical context of brewing beer in Botswana when he was there in the 70s doing field research. I’ve been telling people since I was little that beer is good for you — largely based on the fact that my dad told me that as a kid while drinking a Guinness and talking about the amount of vitamin B. Finally, I’ve found a professional gathering data about alcohol consumption and the history behind it all.
Suggs talks about the social construction of beer as “a food item that was much prized, a drink which, when shared, cemented marriages between patrilineages and rewarded labor cooperation within them. [...] beer was also a privilege of the esteemed. It was in this sense a symbolic indication of social wealth acquired via seniority. Produced by women, it was consumed primarily by men. Thus, it represented not only the power of women’s productive and reproductive capabilities, but also the power of senior males in the control and distribution of life’s blessings” (Suggs, 2002, 46).
He continues that “In the precapitalist economy, the brewing of beer was an inexpensive way to diversify the diet: traditional sorghum brews are not filtered and are quite nutritious as a food item” (Suggs, 2002, 46).
I TOLD YOU SO! Ok granted this is the unfiltered beer from Botswana that’s nutritious and delicious but obviously it has to be true of main-stream beer in Europe and the States…obviously, we should all drink up.