3 Mar 2023

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Gender, social class and contemporary (non)drinking practices in Australia seminar

Gender, social class and contemporary (non)drinking practices in Australia 

Tuesday 28th March 7-8pm Eastern Australian Time / 9-10am British Summer Time  (online)

The Sobriety, Abstinence and Moderation Cluster and Women and Alcohol Cluster invite you to join us for an online seminar exploring themes of gender, social class and contemporary (non)drinking practices with a particular focus on the Australian context:





Amy Pennay (Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University Australia)

A cross-national qualitative analysis of gender amidst declining youth drinking

Significant declines in drinking among young people have been recorded in many high-income countries over the past 20 years. This analysis aimed to provide insight into whether and how gender might be implicated in declining youth drinking, with a focus on women’s data. Interview data from four independent qualitative studies from Australia, Denmark, Sweden and the UK were analysed. We found that women and states of intoxication were pejoratively described in gendered terms (e.g., bitchy, hysterical). Non- and light-drinking on the other hand offered opportunities for expressing alternate and desirable configurations of femininities. Our findings offer insight into how young people’s enactions of gender are embedded in, and evolve alongside, these large declines in youth drinking.


Belinda Lunnay (Research Centre for Public Health Equity and Human Flourishing, Torrens University Australia)

“Glorified cordial”: How social class distinctions are re-made through women’s perspectives on no and low alcohol product consumption

Women’s alcohol consumption during midlife (aged 45-64) is continually increasing and poses threats to disease prevention. Public health approaches designed to curb consumption are not taking effect. We looked to innovate responses by observing the momentum of the ‘sober curious’ wellness movement among younger populations and we wondered what factors impact women’s preparedness to reduce alcohol and can the sober curious movement be leveraged to support women with making alcohol reductions? Globally, ‘sober curious’ movements are rapidly gaining popularity. They promote sustained reduced drinking lifestyles as socially desirable. An important scaffolding to the movement is a rapidly growing range of no- or low-alcohol (NoLo) products now available in bars, bottle shops and supermarkets. Our research explored women’s perceptions about consuming NoLos in accordance with their different life chances and reasons for drinking. I will share data collected through 27 open-ended interviews with ‘sober-curious’ Australian women (45-64 years) from different social class positions (working vs middle/affluent) in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Applying Bourdieu’s relational model of social class, we found NoLos provide middle/affluent women with an alcohol alternative that supports reductions. These women described drinking as a celebration and to achieve social connections, and how in these contexts, NoLos have social value. They represent ‘wellness’ and are a positive and desirable ‘good’, albeit without psychoactive effects. NoLos are also highly commodified products that we found operate as symbolic capital, conferring status and privilege upon middle/affluent class women who have the cultural ‘know how’ to select particular brands, to purchase and to drink them. On the other hand, working class women, who drink to cope with difficult lives and to relieve boredom, stress or loneliness, questioned the advantages of drinking NoLos - “I would just drink water” (one working class woman said) rather than “glorified cordial” (one affluent class woman’s description of NoLos). We found NoLos are unaffordable, and not worthwhile for this group – they are no help with feelings of coping, nor are there gains to be made in terms of recognition of cultural capital and social class mobility. For this group alternative features of the sober curious movement need to be explored for leverage potential in supporting women to reduce alcohol. I will discuss options.

Kristen Foley (Torrens University Australia)

Social class and the actualities of self-making via alcohol consumption, stockpiling, happiness and wellness during the 2020 crisis lockdowns for Australian women in midlife

COVID-19 lockdowns to mitigate viral spread during 2020 confined people to their homes for reasons except ‘essential services’ – which in Australia included to purchase alcohol. Before the pandemic, we interviewed 50 women 2017-2019 about alcohol consumption, and 40 agreed to reinterview during 2020 lockdowns (n=90 interviews). Women were aged 45-64 and represented different social class positions informed by Bourdieusian logic. Data analysis used pre-coding, conceptual/thematic categorisation, and theoretical interpretation. This presentation collates our published work by theme – alcohol consumption and reduction, stockpiling, happiness and wellness – in relation to social class and the actualities for consuming alcohol as part of ‘self-making’. During the pandemic, women in middle class positions worked dutifully to pursue happiness and stay well, stockpiling the most alcohol of women in all classes. Women in working class positions described that drinking provided emotional relief in lieu of happiness and was one of few ‘tools’ that kept them ‘well’, although limited economic capital precluded stockpiling. Women in affluent class positions had well-stocked cellars before the pandemic emerged, so needed to stockpile less, but their narratives indicated they could access alternatives to alcohol consumption to pursue wellness and happiness. Relationships to alcohol therefore took form according to cultural and neoliberal imperatives to ‘make selves’ that are well and happy despite pandemic uncertainty; yet the opportunities to do so segmented commensurate to the capital available to women. Approaches that seek to support women with alcohol reduction must consider these important social class-based differences in women’s self-making and the alternatives to alcohol women can access.


Discussant: Filip Djordjevic (La Trobe University Australia)


Please contact emily.nicholls@york.ac.uk if you have any queries or require the Zoom link. 


22 Feb 2023

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CFP: Women and Alcohol conference workshop: Drinking studies. Crossing Boundaries 2023

The women and alcohol project team are excited to announce a conference workshop on women and alcohol as part of the ‘Between the drunken ‘mother of destruction’ and the sober ‘angel of the house’. Hidden representations of women’s drinking in Polish and British public discourses in the second half of the 19th century’ project’. Although the project focuses on 19th C culture, the workshop will cross chronological and disciplinary boundaries. 

This conference workshop will take place at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw on 25 and 26th July 2023. There will also be the opportunity to attend a special workshop by historian and psychiatrist, Dr Iain Smith, on finding and using medical sources on the afternoon of 24th July 2023. 

The conference workshop will be designed to encourage conversations across a range of academic and cultural boundaries (eg. geographical, disciplinary, linguistic, chronological, etc). Many of us in drinking studies are proud of the truly interdisciplinary nature of our field. There is a building consensus that the next step for our field is to increase international cooperation and cross more boundaries. We, as a team, have found it inspiring to work with colleagues across national and linguistic boundaries and we are aware of several other teams in drinking studies who have thrived for the same reason, so this conference workshop aims to support the development of that approach in drinking studies more widely. 
As such, this conference workshop is designed to encourage more discussion and networking than more traditional models. Attendees and speakers will therefore not be required to give the usual 20-minute papers but instead, we ask you to propose: 

themes for possible round-tables
hands-on mini workshops
stimulus talks (of no more than 7 minutes)
other interactive approaches (we are open to your ideas on this)

We will also invite you to be ready to join in the wide-ranging discussions in a range of interesting and stimulating ways so if you don’t want to bring something specific, you can join in the two days as an active audience member. Some sessions will involve walking tours and museum visits and talks.
At this stage, we would like expressions of interest to get an idea of who would like to attend. Please include any ideas for the sort of session you’d like to offer, or any questions at this stage but the first thing we need to know is who would like to come so we can get an idea of numbers and the range of research interests that might be involved. 

Please e-mail Dr Dorota Dias-Lewandowska and Dr Pam Lock on dsnwomencluster@gmail.com by Friday 30 March 2023. 

16 Feb 2023


Women, Home, and Alcohol: Constructed Façades and Social Norms in Nineteenth-Century Polish and British Representations of Female Drinking Practices


Our first article, published in the Journal of Victorian Culture, is now available on their website. It is Open Access so everyone can read it: 

Dorota Dias-Lewandowska, Pam Lock, Women, Home, and Alcohol: Constructed Façades and Social Norms in Nineteenth-Century Polish and British Representations of Female Drinking Practices, Journal of Victorian Culture, 2023;, vcad004, https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcad004


Drinking practices are closely connected to human geography. No matter whether we choose to drink in public, private, or secretly, where we drink is closely connected to how and what we drink. Alcohol-related behaviour by women, enacted at home, can undermine or challenge social norms. However, the transgressive nature of drinking could lead to physical exile or the masking of women’s desire for self-determination. We explore how the social construct of the respectable, decent home relied heavily on façades to ‘keep up appearances’. We demonstrate the place of alcohol in building these façades, and revealing them for what they were. Alcohol in this context was much more than a simple relief for women whether they were a stressed entrepreneur, a violent spinster, or a suicidal mistress. The tensions between the actions of the eight figures examined and the expectations of patriarchal culture represented in these façades demonstrate the extent to which society shaped women’s behaviour towards alcohol in Poland and Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century.

14 Feb 2023


Team meeting in Glasgow (2022)

Team meeting


1-5 August 2022 

The team behind the NCN funded project, ‘Between the drunken ‘mother of destruction’ and the sober ‘angel of the house’. Hidden representations of women’s drinking in Polish and British public discourses in the second half of the 19th century’ met for their first in-person team meeting in August 2022. We divided our time between discussing the project and working together in a number of archives.

The team meeting was divided into two parts. In the morning, we focussed on discussing the methodology we are developing and had a useful discussion with our mentor, psychiatrist Iain Smith, on medical approaches to women’s drinking in the 19th Century and beyond. In the afternoon, we invited a selection of local scholars from the DSN Women and Alcohol cluster to join us. This gave us the opportunity to share our progress on the project to date and to find out more about their ongoing and related work. These useful conversations were continued over drinks and dinner at the famous Ubiquitous Chip. We examined a range of sources from two archives while we were in Glasgow. We spent two days at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons with their knowledgeable and helpful archivist, Ross MacGregor to unearth some of the gems they have in their stores which have not yet been digitised including papers and artefacts from the famous Glasgow police surgeon, William Mcewan. We spent a further two days in the Glasgow City Archives based at Mitchell Library looking through the undigitised notes from local inebriate asylums and other local hospitals with the assistance of several of their brilliant and helpful archivists. Overall, it was an inspiring and stimulating trip and we are grateful to the NCN for funding this project and helping to bring us together.

7 Oct 2022

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“Researching 'Drunkenness, Compulsion and the Disintegration of the Self: Erasmus Darwin’s Theory of Ebrietas in the Writings of Maria Edgeworth.’” Women and Alcohol cluster seminar


Women and Alcohol Research Cluster is delighted to announce our next online seminar 

“Researching 'Drunkenness, Compulsion and the Disintegration of the Self: Erasmus Darwin’s Theory of Ebrietas in the Writings of Maria Edgeworth.’”
It will take place on 10 November 2022 at 12.00 midday UK time online (zoom - link to be circulated)

(e-mail us dsnwomencluster@gmail.com to register)


dr Lucy Cogan (University of Galway)  “Researching 'Drunkenness, Compulsion and the Disintegration of the Self: Erasmus Darwin’s Theory of Ebrietas in the Writings of Maria Edgeworth.’”

It has long been acknowledged that the depictions of debauched lords in Maria Edgeworth’s writings on the eighteenth-century Irish elite are soaked in references to alcohol. However, until now little attention has been paid to the distinctly medical understanding of the harms caused by alcohol that characterises these works. For the first time, this essay draws out the influence of Erasmus Darwin’s theory of ebrietas on Edgeworth’s portrayal of the issues surrounding alcohol among her class and considers how she adapts Darwin’s ideas to the Irish context, where concerns around drunkenness cut across charged ideas of sectarian identity, class and political power. 

17 May 2022

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'Online Alcohol Recovery & Sobriety Groups' Women and Alcohol & SAM cluster seminar

Women and Alcohol Research Cluster  in collaboration with the Sobriety, Abstinence and Moderation cluster (SAM) are delighted to announce our next online seminar 

'Online Alcohol Recovery & Sobriety Groups' 
It will take place on Thursday 30 June 2022 at 12.00 midday GMT on Zoom
(e-mail us dsnwomencluster@gmail.com to register)


Sally Sanger, University of Sheffield

Women and online alcohol recovery groups: conformity and empowerment 

Sally will explore gender-related findings from a study of alcohol online recovery support groups. She will draw on an analysis of forum posts and interviews to discuss users' (sometimes surprising) assumptions about gender in the groups. The talk will touch on issues such as motherhood, female ageing, and society’s view of female drinking, and will speculate as to why online alcohol support groups seem to attract so many women. 


Claire Davey, Canterbury Christ Church University

‘Goodbye mindless drinking and hello mindful living’: Sobriety as gendered self-care?  

Claire will share some of her emerging research findings and explore how contemporary sober women, within online sobriety communities, reframe their sobriety as a form of self-care, and position sobriety as a tool for their health, development, and empowerment. This presentation will tease out some of the connections between feminism, gender and self-care, through the lens of sobriety, and draw from a variety of sources, including posts from social media platforms, observational data, and interview transcripts.  

24 Nov 2021

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'Policing women's bodies' new Women and Alcohol cluster seminar

Women and Alcohol Research Cluster is delighted to announce our next online seminar will be a roundtable on 
'Policing women's bodies'
It will take place on Monday 13 December 2021 at 12.00 midday GMT on Zoom
(e-mail us dsnwomencluster@gmail.com to register)

Panelists include: 

Laura Fenton, University of Sheffield and University of Manchester

Laura Fenton is a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, where she works on the  Youth Drinking in Decline project, and at the University of Manchester, where she is conducting research for the Austerity and Altered Lifecourses project. Laura completed her PhD in sociology in 2018. Her thesis investigated the drinking biographies of three generations of British women born between the 1940s and '90s. Laura's research interests include gender, youth, lifecourse, alcohol and biographical methods. 

Iain Smith, University of Glasgow and NHS Forth Valley

Dr. Smith has specialised in the field of addiction psychiatry as a Consultant for 29 years now and as well as maintaining a busy clinical practice, has been closely involved with training on alcohol-related topics for both medical students and postgraduate doctors and other health professionals, particularly in the context of psychiatric training. He was awarded a Wellcome Clinician Short-Term Fellowship, which was held at the University of Glasgow Centre for History of Medicine for 4 months in late 2009 studying the history of Scottish Inebriate Reformatories,with mainly women being sent for ”reform”. This work has continued - along with other strands-in the form of M.D. research, 2010-2018.M.D. awarded 2018  

Craig Stafford, University of Liverpool Staffordshire University, School of Law, Policing and Forensics

Craig Stafford gained his PhD from University of Liverpool in 2019. His research interests include the policing of women for drunkenness in Victorian Lancashire. He currently teaches History at University of Liverpool and Staffordshire University.

Cristiana Vale Pires, Catholic University of Portugal 

Cristiana Vale Pires graduated in psychology and holds an MSc and PhD in Anthropology. Currently, she is a lecturer and PostDoc researcher at the Faculty of Education and Psychology at the Catholic University of Portugal. She is a founding member of the NGO Kosmicare (harm reduction targeting people who use drugs in nightlife and other recreational environments) and manager of the European project Sexism Free Night analysing and responding to the intersections between drug use in nightlife environments and sexualized violence.