Upcoming talk at MeCCSA 2017: ‘Raising a Glass to Freedom’? (in)equality in Beer, Britain and Empire.

In July of this year, my colleagues from Bournemouth and I organised a session on drinking communities at IAMCR in Leicester in July 2016 (https://storify.com/drfigtree/beer-and-the-british); as the tweets show, we met some amazing people, had some fascinating discussions, and drank some incredible beers. Everyone seemed to enjoy it so much, we have decided to do it again!

If you are heading to MeCCSA in Leeds in January and interested, then do make sure to sign up here: online registration store. Places are limited, and likely to be in high demand. For those after a little more information, an abstract for the session is below.



Dear colleagues,

We are delighted to announce that MeCCSA 2017 includes a special session on ‘Raising a Glass to Freedom’? (in)equality in Beer, Britain and Empire led by Dr Sam Goodman and Bournemouth University colleagues.

It is Panel 2F: Wednesday 17.45-19.15pm. The perfect warm up for the MeCCSA wine/ beer reception and following pub quiz!

Why do we claim this session to be ‘special’? Well, mostly to do with the fact that whilst learning about beer, empire and contestations of beer culture, you will also be drinking beer; and not just any beer, but beer with a story.

If you are interested in attending, then please read on, but note that:

  1. a) Attendance is strictly limited to 30 people and will be offered on a ‘first come, first served’ basis
  2. b) In order to cover costs for beer tasting, there is a £5 charge for attendance at the session. You can sign up on the conference online registration store.

Further info and session abstract below:

British beer culture is currently in the midst of a revival. The influence and popularity of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the US-originated Craft Beer movement is seemingly at its peak, with a range of microbrewed beers as readily available in high street chain pubs across the UK as in more exclusive craft bars. Beyond its popularity though, beer has always been loaded with social meaning, and serves as a window into the British imperial past, as well as our contemporary present.

Through focus on the interrelation between the history and present-day understanding of drinking cultures and habits in the UK, this session asks pertinent questions of a significant contemporary cultural movement, and one that speaks directly to social freedoms, equalities and their representation in popular media. Drinking has always been a site of anxiety, especially where the consumption of alcohol has intersected with divisions, but also interactions, of class, gender, and race. Throughout British history, beer, and alcohol more generally, is variously portrayed as a cohesive and unifying force, whilst simultaneously responsible for disintegration and social decay.

Such dynamics of power and control influenced the way in which alcohol functioned at the height of the British Empire, with the export of beer to the colonies an expression of British cultural and economic imperialism, thought vital to the health of the colonizer, but dangerous to that of the native if not heavily regulated and restricted. Bringing this discussion up to the present day, such concerns of enjoyment and excess remain visible in contemporary discourse over drinking. For example, the recently-published UK government guidelines on safe levels of alcohol consumption were met variously with support, derision and scorn, with many commentators bristling against what they viewed as being told how to behave, as well as the perceived inequalities between the UK limits and those of other nations around the world.

The panel will be split into two distinct but contiguous sections with a total duration of 1.5hrs:

  1. In the first half of the session, Dr Sam Goodman will give a 30-minute paper presentation on the history and legacy of beer as a site of social anxiety in relation the colonial British Empire, through to the formation and current state of contemporary Real Ale and Craft Beer communities, and UK drinking culture. The paper incorporates an interactive element through inclusion of tasters of beers (that’s right, folks, drink while you think!) under discussion, and will be followed by 15 minutes of questions.
  2. In the second half of the session, our focus is interactive. In this 45 minute debate, we invite participants to engage in debate on the place of beer and drinking in contemporary culture. The debate would be based on, but not limited to, issues such as:
  • National beer history and memory
  • Beer, place and community
  • The globalisation and political economy of beer markets
  • The relationship between beer and public health in comparative perspective
  • Social class and beer drinking
  • Media representations of drinking communities

Further information on Dr Sam Goodman’s work on beer and empire can be seen through the BBC/ AHRC New Generation Thinkers programme:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038fmp2 or you can follow his blog: https://imperialmeasuresblog.wordpress.com

Dr Sam Goodman, Dr Dan Jackson, Dr Anna Feigenbaum, Dr Einar Thorsen (Bournemouth University).

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