“Potent Brews breaks new ground in analyzing the very different functions of alcohol in precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial contexts. Willis focuses particularly on alcohol's role in the making of authority, condending that "for people across East Africa, talking about 'proper' drinking and contrasting past drinking with present drinking, have been ways of arging about proper behavior within their own societies.“
African Studies Review
In this first general history of alcohol and drinking in East Africa, Justin Willis's central theme is power—from customary beliefs in alcohol as a symbol of authority and a means of enhancement and privilege, to the use of power in advertising, and discourse on the consumption of modern bottled beers and spirits. Potent Brews covers a span of nearly two centuries with emphasis on the late-colonial and post-colonial years, thus highlighting continuities that East African historians have tended to overlook.
Oral materials from three case study areas in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania are interwoven with archival and newspaper sources, each reinforcing and elaborating the other.
Justin Willis is a senior associate and researcher at the department of history, University of Durham.
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