15.1. Learning to Drink: An Exploration of How Alcohol Beverages are Consumed in Three Indonesian Provinces

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Semiarto Aji Purwanto (Universitas Indonesia)


Ethnographic findings on the consumption of alcohol tends to see the position and the place of alcohol in various social space. In contrast to the view of health experts and practitioners, ethnography elaborates more about the tradition and culture of drinking rather than a variety of problems that may arise. A study by Room (1984) on the ethnographic writings shows that the writer’s perspective often ambiguous; if not amplify the problem, they tend to deflate the issue. The today situation in Indonesia, where the different patterns of ideology from the west (modernity), east (the Asian values), Islam and local are highly articulated, the issue of alcohol consumption is more importantly to assess. One group tried to suppress consumption for reasons of health, safety and religion; others tolerated on the grounds of tradition, lifestyle and economy. Despite of this debate, a lot of incidents that led to deaths due to alcohol consumption are reported to occur in many parts of the country. This article will discuss the micro aspects of alcohol consumption at the level of local households in Central Kalimantan, Central Java and North Sulawesi. In particular it will examine the development of drinking culture and its dynamics. Data obtained from the observation during a month in three locations in 2015, showed that the consumption of alcohol in the front-stage level appears low because it was not discussed openly. Conversely, at a more micro level, among users, consumption of alcohol is a great thing normal and acceptable. While McIlmaine & Moser (2004) says that alcohol acceptance and tolerance was associated with socio-economic conditions, this study shows that cultural factors, such as habits of the most intimate reference gropus such as family and friendship, is one of the most important factors for the tolerance on alcohol consumption.

Keywords: drinking culture, socialization, refrence group, Central Kalimantan, Central Java, North Sulawesi