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December 2019

Med Anthropol. 1992 Nov; 15(1): 41-62.

Symbolic mediation and commoditization: a critical examination of alcohol use among the Haya of Bukoba, Tanzania.

Carlson RG.

Dayton-Columbus AIDS Prevention Research Project, School of Medicine, Wright State University, OH 45435.

Low-alcohol-content fermented beverages are thoroughly enmeshed in the social, economic, commensal, and cosmological spheres of life among most peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. This paper describes and analyzes the role of alcoholic beverages as symbolic mediators and commodities among the Haya of northwest Tanzania. Data gathered during field research in 1985-86 are employed to describe the ways in which the Haya portray excessive drinking and the indigenous strategies they use to address frequent drunkenness when it is perceived as a health problem. A central feature of the paper contrasts the role of a cultural schema of four levels of intoxication in processes of symbolic mediation and commoditization, thereby contributing to critical medical anthropological analysis.

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