Sobriety, Abstinence and Moderation Cluster

Co-ordinators: David BeckinghamYannick Le HénaffAnnemarie McAllister and Emily Nicholls

Excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking have long caught the attention of the public and media. Yet past and present representations, understandings and experiences of abstinence and moderation – particularly in heavy drinking cultures – demand further scholarly attention. Researchers involved in the ‘Sobriety, Abstinence and Moderation’ (SAM) research cluster are interested in these themes in both a historic and contemporary context, spanning a range of disciplines including history, geography, sociology and literature.    

With recent declines in drinking rates across parts of the world including Europe and Australia – particularly amongst younger people – and the rise of ‘positive sobriety’ movements, ‘dry months’ and online communities, further research into the lived experiences, representations and challenges of drinking moderately or not at all is timely and important. In particular, an understanding of how non-drinking or moderate drinking is managed in cultures where alcohol consumption is expected, normalised or even felt to be ‘compulsory’ may provide useful lessons for policymakers, practitioners and healthcare professionals working towards challenging dominant norms around drinking and supporting individuals, communities and populations to change their relationships with alcohol. We welcome members working in and beyond academia on all areas of sobriety, abstinence and moderation (including stakeholders in policy, healthcare and the voluntary sector). 

Research within the cluster may focus on – but is not limited to – the following themes:

  • Historical trends, campaigns and movements around sobriety and abstinence including Temperance movements
  • Contemporary and historical lived experiences of non-drinkers, light drinkers and former drinkers
  • Recovery, treatment and support 
  • Representations through time of sobriety, abstinence and moderation 
  • Changing drinking patterns over time and possible shifts in dominant drinking cultures
  • Marketing, advertising and the no or low alcohol drinks market
  • Public policy promoting moderation or abstinence

Bios of coordinators:

David Beckingham ( is Associate Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of Nottingham.  He works uses a focus on the regulation of drink and drinking to explore the shifting relationship between the liberal state and society.  He has published research on the development of the Victorian temperance movement and the relationship between anti-drink campaigns and alcohol licensing reform. 

Yannick Le Hénaff ( is a Lecturer in Sociology at Rouen Normandy University, France. His research aims to examine alcohol consumers’ trajectories regarding drinking as the result of learning processes across time. He is currently conducting research on sport and alcohol and especially rugby and climbing.

Annemarie McAllister ( is Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central Lancashire, UK and has written widely on the cultural, social and political history of the UK temperance movement. Her Demon Drink? Temperance and the Working Class (2014) was a popular history to complement exhibitions curated, including the ongoing virtual site at  She has recently edited the Winter 2019 edition of SHAD on ‘Temperance Past and Present’ and is interested in all aspects of the temperance movement and its modern resonances.

Emily Nicholls ( is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York, UK. Her early work explores young women’s alcohol consumption on a ‘girls’ night out’ and the role of drinking in ‘doing’ gender and femininities. More recently, she is interested in exploring representations and experiences of sobriety in cultures where drinking is normalised, including the ways in which former female drinkers negotiate the transition to sobriety. 

If you are interested in joining the cluster and being added to our mailing list please contact Emily Nicholls at The cluster convenors Emily Nicholls (University of York), Yannick Le Hénaff (Rouen Normandy University), David Beckningham (University of Nottingham) and Annemarie McAllister (University of Central Lancashire) look forward to developing opportunities for those of us working in this area to meet, network, share ideas and collaborate.