Past Events

DSN@10 Where Are We Now Conference Summary, 12-14 November 2021

Originally designed to mark the tenth anniversary of the Drinking Studies Network’s foundation in 2010, our delayed fourth major international conference took place over three days in November 2021. The ‘Where are we Now’ theme and goal of the conference was to assess the major challenges in our field, both retrospectively and into the future. It was also an opportunity to reflect on the development of the Network itself over this time, and as we embark on a new chapter in partnership with the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs Journal. 

One striking feature of the conference was how we were discussing many of the familiar themes that had been explored through our previous conferences in 2013, 2015 and 2018 – and which are staples of drinking studies scholarship – but doing so with greater levels of nuance and complexity in the models, methodologies and frameworks we were using. Familiar themes included gender, place, time, change, work, health and sociability, amongst others. But there was, for instance, an innovative emphasis on mobility, movement and ephemerality that enhanced our understanding of drinking places, both imagined and real, physical and virtual. Similarly, thinking about the longer-term trajectories of drinking behaviour by different individuals and groups, in relation to drinking occasions as ‘moments’ in time extended our discussion of drinking temporalities to consider deliberate ‘not-drinking’, and the complex relationship between experiences of sociability and health, both physical and mental, in shaping drinking behaviours. 

Secondly, throughout the conference, constructions of ‘ideal’ drinking across different times and spaces kept recurring as subjects of analysis. Topics ranged from imagined ‘ideal drinkers’, to stereotypes about the drinking behaviours of social groups, to the idealisation of specific types of drinking place and drinking cultures. Of course, the construction of ‘ideal’ drinkers, behaviours, places and cultures also has as its flip-side: in the criticism, even demonisation, of those who lie outside the ‘ideal’, and these discussions also featured in the conference programme. Insights about the role of memory, nostalgia, families, and communities of practice in shaping alcohol production, consumption and sociability emerged from these examinations to give lots of food for thought. 

There were, of course, some themes that received less attention than they might have done, reflecting areas within the field of drinking studies that still require more investigation. Whilst scholarship in our field is particularly attuned to the ways in which class and gender shape experiences and discourses around drinking, we still have much more to learn about the importance of race and ethnicity. The papers that explored the relationships between alcohol, race and ethnicity in the Americas demonstrated what a fruitful area of research this can be in the future. And we still have a tendency to focus on the consumers of alcohol – or of non-alcoholic drinks – to the neglect of those who work within the drinks trade. We did hear about brewers in several different contexts – from American craft brewing to seventeenth-century Mexico and contemporary Manipur – but the history of drink workers, especially retailers, is ripe for further examination.

Since we opted to hold the conference virtually due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have been remiss for the pandemic’s effects on drinking practices to go unexamined in the conference programme. Indeed, the pandemic featured prominently in a number of papers, particularly those examining contemporary drinking spaces. Yet it was striking how many of these explorations connected together the larger themes of ‘mobility’ and ‘the ideal’ that were prominent in many different historical contexts as well.

As to the virtuality of the conference itself, while many of us yearned for those informal chats between panels and for a post-conference trip to the actual pub, there were considerable benefits to the online experience. Nearly 90 participants were registered for this conference, where, historically, we’ve had to limit participation to around 50 people. Some participants couldn’t attend all panels, due to time differences, screen fatigue, and life in general. But we surely would not have had such an international line-up of speakers – everywhere from the US west coast to Japan – in a physical conference setting. The characteristic good humour of DSN members also meant that we enjoyed several ‘substantial meal breaks’, launched a revamped Craft & the Artisanal research cluster, and learned how to do virtual drinking (including of the alcohol-free variety) before putting that learning into practice in our virtual pub, the Dog & Salty Nun!

Please see the link below for the DSN@10 programme:

Drinking Studies Network Conference 2018: Changing Drinking Cultures

College Court, University of Leicester, 3rd & 4th February 2018

Since its foundation in 2010 the Drinking Studies Network has gone from strength to strength, and now boasts over 200 members worldwide. In response to this growth in membership we introduced a number of ‘Research Clusters’ within the DSN in 2015 to help facilitate focused conversations around particular themes within the field of drinking studies. At the same time, we did not want to sacrifice the DSN’s capacity to bring together scholars from across the network to have a collective, interdisciplinary, over-arching conversation about the big questions that unite us as a field. Our third major two-day conference, supported by an Alcohol Research UK Network Development Grant, provides an opportunity for us to come back together as a network and participate once more in a collective conversation.

The focus of that conversation will be two interlinked questions that lie at the heart of drinking studies: how and why do drinking cultures change?

A programme and report can be found here:

DSN2018 Programme

Changing Drinking Cultures 2018 Conference Report

Online Symposium 2018:

Ahead of our 2-day international conference in early February – DSN2018: Changing Drinking Cultures – we are hosting a mini online symposium. This involves three posts from members of the DSN who were unable to present their papers at the conference itself, but wanted to make a contribution to the collective conversation we will be having about how and why drinking cultures change.

So, we will post one of these a week for the next three weeks, with a view to getting people thinking, and getting the conversation started virtually, before we meet in February. Of course, anyone who is not attending the conference is more than welcome to read and comment on these posts – any contributions to the debate are welcome!

Links to the posts will appear here as and when they are published:

Emma Saleeba, What is drinking culture and how do we change it?  Our online symposium kicks off with this introduction to the Alcohol Cultures Framework, an Australian public health initiative that deals directly with questions that are central to our conference.

Jenni Lares, Lutheranism and Drunkenness in 17th-Century Finland. The online symposium continues with this look at the Reformation roots of European alcohol regulation, focused on a case study of the campaign to change drinking habits in early modern Finland.

Laura Fenton, Changing drinking cultures? Young women’s drinking in post-war and contemporary Britain. Our mini-symposium concludes with this examination of how young women’s drinking habits have changed in Britain since 1945, reflecting on when the major turning points occurred and what caused them.

Drinking Studies Network and Alcohol Research UK Workshop:

Changing Drinking Cultures: Measuring Change, University of Exeter, 3 July 2017

This small-scale, intensive workshop brought together 10 invited leading scholars from across a range of humanities and social science disciplines to discuss the various approaches used within their discipline to try and measure changes in drinking cultures – from changing patterns of consumption to measuring the impact of policy interventions. Participants reflected on the challenges of quantitative approaches to change – especially where the nature of historical sources makes this particularly difficult – and discussed the ways in which we can apply rigorous techniques to measure forms of qualitative change.

A programme and report can be found here:

DSN&ARUK Measuring Change Workshop 2017 Programme and Report

Drinking Studies Network Conference 2015:

New Directions in Drinking Studies, University of Leicester, 6-7 June

We held our second major 2-day Drinking Studies Network conference in June at the University of Leicester. The aim of the conference was to take stock of recent developments across the burgeoning field of drinking studies, and reflect on an agenda for the years to come. In particular, delgates focused on the following themes: Pubs as Cultural Institutions; Changing Drinking Cultures; Alcohol and Ethnicity; Alcohol and Authenticity; and Gender, Class and Problem Drinking.

A conference report has been written by network co-convenor Deborah Toner on the theme of ‘Consuming Authenticities’. Network member Jennifer Wallis has also personally reflected on some of the conference’s key discussion points in her blog post.

Warwick Drinking Studies Network and Higher Education Academy Workshop:

Teaching Alcohol Studies in History: Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Approaches, 10 April 2014

Thanks to the support of the HEA the network hosted a special workshop at the University of Leicester for those teaching in Alcohol Studies across a range of disciplines. We examined how we can best utilise and integrate different disciplinary perspectives from this multidisciplinary field into modules on the history of alcohol, and shared ideas about best teaching practice. We also discussed the development of digital learning and teaching resources to support such modules, and as a result we plan in due course to develop a ‘teaching resources’ section on the website for all members to use. Watch this space!

Warwick Drinking Studies Network Conference 2013:

Biographies of Drink, 9-10 February 2013

Thanks to a generous grant of support from the Economic History Society, the network hosted a major two-day international conference in February of 2013. Papers from a variety of disciplinary perspectives examined issues surrounding the consumption of alcohol – such as governance, material culture, and the relationship between drink and identity – in a series of case studies, or ‘Biographies of Drink’. You can view the programme here: Biographies of Drink Programme.

An edited collection arising from the conference proceedings was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2015 as: Hailwood and Toner (eds) Biographies of Drink: A Case Study Approach to our Historical Relationship with Alcohol.

Warwick Drinking Studies Network Symposium 2011:

Drink and the Life Cycle, 23 September 2011

On 23 September 2011 the Network held its second major symposium at the University of Warwick. The symposium’s theme – ‘Drink and the Life Cycle’ – proposed two panel sessions, each of three papers. A plenary address was given by Professor Gill Valentine from the University of Leeds, addressing the different relationships to alcohol of different ages groups across from a range of disciplinary, geographic and historical perspectives. The resulting discussions were particularly thought-provoking. In particular, the implication that the attitudes towards alcohol consumption of young people in contemporary Britain do differ considerably from preceding generations and from historical patterns. If you would like to find out more about the themes and discussions that arose at the symposium then you can read Deborah Toner’s excellent conference report. A copy of the programme is available here.

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