The very nature of beer changed. Women, the beer makers of Nyakyusa society, started to make and sell maize beer rather than millet beer. And the cash income which women came to derive from selling beer gave them a new economic autonomy....
The very nature of beer changed. Women, the beer makers of Nyakyusa society, started to make and sell maize beer rather than millet beer. And the cash income which women came to derive from selling beer gave them a new economic autonomy. A new imperative to individual accumulation undermined the commitment to generosity between age mates and, at the same time, population growth and the new economic importance of standing tree crops like tea and coffee ended a former pattern of generationally shifting settlement which had made practicable the strict separation of fathers and sons…
Young men returning from work have less respect for seniors than formerly. What brings disrespect is beer; formerly the young did not drink beer, but now they come with their own money and buy and drink. Beer brings pride. . .beer used to belong to the older men. Yes, it belonged to men, there was none for sale and juniors did not get any.
That’s from a paper I’m reading on the change that widespread availability of wages and thus uncontrolled (by elders) access to beer had on the Nyakusa of Africa (reference below). It’s actually sort of an update on a previous bit of research by Monica Wilson, done in the 1970s. Willis (the author here) thinks she’s overstated the case, but there’s no question that colonialism and the introduction of market-based alcohol production and distribution wrought substantial changes on the continent.
This foray I’m taking into the more broad picture of alcohol consumption in Africa might be a bit off the path as far as the actual research I’m doing (alcohol use and its effects on HIV treatment and outcomes) but it’s been quite eye-opening. Why, for example, did North America not really have its own alcohol? Meso- and South American were awash in booze; it’s even been suggested that the Inca empire ran — almost literally — on chicha. I’m even finding myself intrigued by some of the behavioralist mumbo-jumbo on the social context of drinking. OTOH, some of that is just repackaging what others have long known, that different populations drink in different ways, and marketers key into that. E.g., the longer-term “session drinking” in the UK for example, tends to promote different sorts of beers than the “event drinking” here in the US. There’s even a suggestion that, despite peoples’ different reactions to alcohol (you know, the Goofy Drunk as opposed to the Mean Drunk), we can and do exhibit particular drunken behaviors depending on the context we’re in when we’re tying one on. Also enlightening to learn that this idea of drinking as almost strictly a pathology to be corrected — mostly a product of the 19th and 20th century temperance movements in Europe and North America — is really at odds with much of history.
To be fair, however, ancient texts are replete with admonishments to avoid drink in excess and the consequences it usually brings. Not that this is always a bad thing: in the Destruction of Mankind myth, Sekhmet was on a rampage to destroy mankind, but was thwarted by red-tinted beer which she thought was human blood which she then gorged herself on and woke up three days later so hung over she’d forgotten all about her quest to eliminate mankind.
Refs: Willis, J. 2001 ‘Beer Used to Belong to Older Men’: Drink and Authority among the Nyakyusa of Tanzania. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 71(3): 373-390. (Article here if you can access it)
McKenny, M. 1973 The social structure of the Nyakyusa: a re-evaluation. Africa 43:91-107.
Okay, this sentence made me stop and read it a few times: [Beer] was ‘blown’ over the particular banana sucker which every man kept which was dedicated to the recently deceased members of the patriline.
You banana sucker!