David Mcknight assesses the effects that alcohol has had on a small aboriginal community. He explores why drinking has become the main social activity, leading to high levels of illness, suicide and homicide.
From Hunting to Drinking reveals the social change witnessed over a period of 30 years by an anthropologist on Mornington Island, off the North Queensland Coast, Australia, most notably the devastating effects that alcohol has had on this community. Drinking has become the main social activity on the island today and the amount of alcohol consumed per year has reached a disturbing level. Suicide and homicide rates are alarmingly high and people are drinking so much that alcohol related illness is rife. Early deaths are so common that soon there will be no old people. David McKnight
assesses increasing alcohol consumption and explores how it now affects all reaches of community life - local politics, marriage, child-rearing practices, gender relationships, employment, law, housing and education. In an attempt to answer the question of why the Mornington Islanders drink so much the author reviews the history of drinking in Australia, and more specifically on Mornington Island, as well as its causes. Equally important, the author asks why the situation has been allowed to continue and explores the vested interest that the authorities have in the sale of alcohol on the island.
Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork this is a vital addition to the literature on alcohol use and problem drinking, social change and postcolonialism.
David Mcknight is a member of the emeritus staff at the London School of Economics. He has been conducting research among Australian Aborigines for 35 years and lived with the people of Mornington Island for over five years.