UNL researchers recently published a paper concerning the role of alcohol use within Inuit communities in Human Organization, a branch of the Society for Applied Anthropology.
The paper was published using data collected in a northern Inuit community. The research team’s findings are based on the large social network found within the community, gathered through 330 interviews with participants over a span of five months.
The researchers found that social networks based around traditional knowledge and trade of subsistence foods greatly overlap with networks of alcohol consumption. This finding led to concerns about the way we perceive alcohol use within social networks, creating the idea of confounding culture. Researchers often depict alcohol use as a solely harmful activity, failing to account for its role in positive social interaction/tradition in the community. The researchers state that “the sources of cultural continuity and resilience are embedded in activities that may also be considered harmful.” This is a confounding culture.
The team suggests then that we need a new way of approaching aboriginal substance use and mental health. To this point, many intervention strategies deem alcohol use as a completely unhealthy activity, but these fail to account for social and cultural aspects of alcohol use. Moving forward, interventions need to be more culturally-tailored to account for the complexities of alcohol use in these cultural contexts.