One of the most interesting talks I heard at the Alcohol Drug History Conference, Under Control? was by Amanda Fine, a Ph.D. student in anthropology. She is doing an ethnography of young people and alcohol use in a new town. It is a study of drinking practices.
The new town has a center purposely built for the night-time economy. She is studying one particular pub which has a music venue attached to it. A young woman, Jenny, is the landlady of both establishments. She started running the pub when she was eighteen and has been doing it for four years.
Amanda Fine is examining the culture around Jenny who she has designated the Queen Bee. She is a participant-observer and has, to some extent, become part of Jenny’s inner circle. The inner circle functions as informal surveillance and protection for Jenny.
I found this study very interesting because not that much is written about drinking practices and what actually goes on in pubs and bars. The idea of consciously creating night-time activities which have an economic purpose is, to me, a new way to look at social and cultural activities. Several other papers at the conference also used this term.
One thing that Amanda Fine did not really address was Jenny’s economic role. She is running a business which requires involvement with local licensing agents, potential interaction with the police as well as purchasing liquor and stocking the pub. As a woman, being a publican is not that usual. How does Jenny cope with that?