Shots Around the World

“Take a shot of anthropology.”

This phrase is the slogan for a new class on campus titled Anthropology of Alcohol, or as everyone likes to call it “Booze and Culture.” ANTH 140 is a course designed to explore the drinking habits and customs of other cultures with a professor, Dr. Kirk French, who has traveled the world himself.

“There are several reasons why I created this course: one is I really like alcohol and I find that most people have an interest in it,” French says. French believes that even if you don’t drink you are still affected by it, even if it is just the philosophy of why others drink.

Graduating from a special topics course, Anthropology of Alcohol is in its first semester of being an official class. French started with a goal of 200 students, but within the first week of class he opened up 50 more seats, and then another 50 seats until 102 Forum finally reached its 300-student capacity in about two days.

“Every culture has unique drinking tradition and I use that as a vehicle to teach a broader audience about anthropology,” French says.

College students live in a world of alcohol; whether it is tailgating, Indigo, or frats, college plans for the weekend normally involve drinking. People everywhere incorporate alcohol into their traditions and it is the purpose of anthropology to study these habits. So far this semester the class has discussed the making of alcohol in places such as Mongolia, China, and Japan.

Drinking is not only a part of students’ weekends now, but could also be a part of their professional lives. When moving into the business world, no matter what major, having a drink to close a deal or to become closer with your colleagues is becoming much more common.

In Japan they have something known as a Nomikai, a drinking party thrown for and by your place of employment. This course prepares you for interacting with people from different backgrounds and shows you how to respect and appreciate their customs. For example cheering “Toloo” means “to good health” in Mongolia while drinking Airag.

You don’t have to be an anthropology major to gain valuable knowledge in this class. This course can count for an International Cultures, United States Cultures, or a General Education: Social and Behavioral Sciences credit.

Starting in the spring there will also be an embedded program with this course. During spring break 15 students will travel with Dr. French to Scotland to study whiskey. This embedded aspect will be added to every semester and next fall, during winter break, there will be a trip to Denmark where they make a unique Scandinavian Christmas time alcohol.

On to the most important question of the class…what’s the expert’s favorite drink?

“Pox. It is made by the modern day Maya in San Christol, Mexico and it was my first real experience with small-scale production [of alcohol] similar to the way moonshine is made,” French says.

This course is made possible because of the Anthropology department as well as the support of the Liberal Arts department and their Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Paul Taylor. So if this sounds like your cup of Firefly Sweet Tea, then add ANTH 140 to your spring semester. (No, you don’t have to be 21 to be a part of this course!)

Valley does not support underage drinking. Please drink responsibly.