Cultural context and impact of alcohol use in the Sundarban Delta, West Bengal, India
Chowdhury, Arabinda N.
Chakraborty, Ajoy K.
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CitationChowdhury, Arabinda N., Jayashree Ramakrishna, Ajoy K. Chakraborty, and Mitchell G. Weiss. 2006. “Cultural Context and Impact of Alcohol Use in the Sundarban Delta, West Bengal, India.” In Social Science & Medicine 63, no. 3: 722–731. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.02.006.
AbstractHazardous alcohol consumption is a worldwide problem with many locally distinctive features across cultures, but studies to guide policy in developing countries are notably lacking. This community study aimed to clarify local patterns of alcohol use in six villages of West Bengal, India. It considered the variety of local alcoholic preparations, who consumed them, when, and where. It sought to determine how social changes in the region influence changing patterns of acceptable and problem use of alcohol. Ethnographic methods included participant observation and focus group discussions. The qualitative data analysis of field notes and transcripts included a review of full texts and a computer-assisted analysis of thematically coded segments with reference to a structured agenda. We found that drinking is an integral feature of the cultural landscape. Locally brewed rice beer (handia), palm wine (tadi), distilled country liquor (chullu), and so-called Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) are consumed in these villages. Each is identified with particular segments of society and settings in these communities. Reported effects of problem drinking included social disturbances, family discord, and domestic violence. Increasing problem alcohol use was attributed by villagers to social changes resulting from development, which were otherwise valued, such as improved transportation and communications. In a field dominated by Western and urban studies, this research clarifies features of alcohol availability, use, and acceptance in a neglected rural area of India. It illustrates the limitations of western clinical models of dependence and the importance of clarifying sociocultural conditions that define locally acceptable and problem use.
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