Europeans, who constitute twelve and a half percent of the world's population, consume fifty percent of the recorded world production of alcohol and this consumption, sometimes social, sometimes ceremonial, plays a significant role in the cultural, religious, and social identities of the people of these countries. The majority of studies on alcohol have examined its use with the assumption that alcohol is a drug and have focused on large, often diverse groups ignoring until recently the importance of cultural variation. In Alcohol, Gender and Culture the contributors show how different groups define the proper use of alcohol, how State policies may effect drinking behaviour, and highlight how beverages and comestibles must be seen in relation to each other. From this it is shown how important socio-cultural distinctions are made between and within communities gender relations, ethnic groups, and socio-economic groups, and within religious ideologies. What one drinks, how one drinks, with whom, and where, all influence not only how alcoholic substances are regarded but also how social relations are experienced.
It is seen that in those societies where alcohol is not viewed as a dangerous product, but is highly valued and constitutes part of everyday life, drunkenness is not immediately associated with the quantity of alcohol consumed, but rather is contained within social relations. Could it be, then, that certain communities exhibit a cultural immunity to alcohol problems since drunkeness is not nesessarily considered a social problem? The contributors present material from Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Sweden and Ireland showing how the social construction of drinking may provide an analytical tool with which to approach different socio-cultural groups. To demonstrate this further the first chapter concentrates on gender roles and drink in Egypt, providing a comparison with European attitudes to drink and drinking and illustrating how any cultural group can be compared to another by its attitudes to alcohol.