Alcohol “constitutes an especially revealing focus of analysis for anthropologists and historians”

In brief, alcoholic drinks are not simply reducible to a uniform chemical substance with physiological effects. They constitute a form of material culture subject to almost unlimited possibilities for variation in terms of ingredients, techniques of preparation, patterns of association and exclusion, modes of serving and consumption, aesthetic and moral evaluations, expected behavior when drinking, […] continued…

“…alcohol has often acquired the additional stigma of being associated with traditional ritual practices and the power of what missionaries view as pagan superstition and prior networks of communal identity”

…some Protestant Christian sects depict alcohol as an evil and dangerous substance that defiles the drinker and forbid its consumption. Aside from its prominent role in the temperance movements of Europe and the United States (Blocker 1989, Harrison 1971, Roberts 1984), this belief has been transported by missionaries to many colonial encounters and postcolonial situations. […] continued…

“There is significant irony in contemporary traditional communities on Purim…”

There is significant irony in contemporary traditional communities on Purim; rabbinic overexertion of the laws of Purim has led legal-minded individuals to compel themselves and others to attend punctiliously and with all seriousness to the reading of the Měgillâ – a work of bawdy comedy. The image of a costumed clown ritually reading the Měgillâ […] continued…

“No talmudic discussion regards the recitation of [the Song of the Day] as anything other than temple practice”

…the daily Levitical songs (Pss 24, 48, 82, 94, 81, 93, 92) as recorded in a baraita appended to the end of m. Tam. as evidence. According to this baraita, the Levites would sing these psalms during the burning of the daily sacrifice. This passage provides proof for a rabbinic memory of a Second Temple […] continued…

“Reality-television fans have high standards for artifice”

Reality-television fans have high standards for artifice, which needs to seem both believable and intricately produced, bloody and plastic. This was the initial appeal of the “Housewives” franchise, which will swan to its fifteenth anniversary in March. When the inaugural series, “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” premièred, in 2006, audiences were titillated by this […] continued…

“The Jewish-Italian connection is so central to the Mafia legend that one senses it must be operating on a kind of meta-level…”

In talking about the Mob, we airily use words like “mythological,” but there’s a sense in which the allegorical, rather than the strictly mythological, level of meaning is what makes the Mob irresistible. The Jewish-Italian connection is so central to the Mafia legend that one senses it must be operating on a kind of meta-level, […] continued…

“the Mob was really defeated not by charges but by changes”

The former Mafia prosecutor John Kroger, in his 2008 book, “Convictions,” details his team’s victories against the Mob but admits, with some chagrin, that the Mob was really defeated not by charges but by changes. Crime battens on prohibition. The lotteries stripped the numbers racket of its appeal; Internet porn took a toll on the […] continued…

“The fact that Georgia’s Senate races will be decided by runoffs is a quirk of the state’s electoral system…”

The fact that Georgia’s Senate races will be decided by runoffs is a quirk of the state’s electoral system that, like many electoral quirks, originates in efforts to limit the influence of the Black vote. The Georgia state law adopting the runoff model was the brainchild of Denmark Groover Jr., a Democratic state representative and […] continued…

“The Trump era has often come wrapped in a cloak of self-protective irony”

The Trump era has often come wrapped in a cloak of self-protective irony. We have been asked to separate the man from his tweets, to believe that Trump doesn’t mean what he says, that he doesn’t intend to act on his beliefs, that he isn’t what he obviously is. Any divergence between word and reality […] continued…

“Global cabal theories are able to attract large followings in part because they offer a single, straightforward explanation to countless complicated processes”

Global cabal theories are able to attract large followings in part because they offer a single, straightforward explanation to countless complicated processes. Our lives are repeatedly rocked by wars, revolutions, crises and pandemics. But if I believe some kind of global cabal theory, I enjoy the comforting feeling that I do understand everything. The war […] continued…
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