Grogue, an artisanal alcohol distilled in Cabo Verde West Africa for centuries, serves as a quintessential and enduring example of a contested cultural artefact. While artisanal alcohols make up at least half of total alcohol consumption worldwide, there remains a paucity of information about its place in society, including its production, dispersion, and valuation. Combined with its roles in vernacular as related to economics, health, location, and social characteristics, artisanal alcohol research is a pressing priority as an understudied foodstuff with tremendous societal implications around pleasure and plain as both a food and psychoactive drug. This study considers how artisanal alcohol serves as an ongoing and contested symbol of place. How is this craft defined, and who proclaims, listens to, and defends its cultural value and protects against associated harms including its colonial origins and associated health risks? How do home-based operations fashion sustainable lifeways and navigate moral, political, and physiological impacts of artisanal alcohol within shifting capitalist systems? Interdisciplinary ethnographic collaboration with artisanal grogue producers and their social networks uncovers grogue’s tangible and intangible social lives. This study explores the shifting nature of artisanal alcohol as a valued yet contested cultural asset with the potential to both empower and imperil reciprocal rural livelihoods within capitalist-oriented systems. Understanding how markets and communities frequently grow into or apart from one another due to shifting policies and neoliberal futures is paramount to this study. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified localized production demands, reliance on social supply networks, alcohol consumption and associated risks, and exposed alcohol policy shortfalls, supply chain issues, and contracting economies. Cabo Verde’s grogue producers are now embattled by shifting cosmopolitan preferences and newly articulated national alcohol policy. And yet, these artisanal alcohol-scapes remain resilient, well-integrated, institutionalized, and culturally meaningful.


NSF Award Number 2243434

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