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Anthropology of Alcohol

ANTH140 is currently the largest anthropology course in the

United States with over 700 students enrolled every semester.

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The Anthropology of Alcohol (ANTH140) is a course developed by Kirk French at Penn State University to introduce students to the basic concepts of anthropology by highlighting the variability of alcohol use through time and space. From the world’s first beer in Henan, China in 7000 B.C. to local craft breweries in central Pennsylvania the class explores the historical and societal impacts of alcohol production. From the ceremonial use of fermented mare's milk (airag) in Mongolia to ritualized tailgating at Beaver Stadium, students are presented with the highly varied ways in which alcohol is produced and consumed.


Although many of the lectures in ANTH140 are relatively light, French does not shy away from the darker side of alcohol. Topics such as alcohol and sexual assault, binge drinking, and college hazing are thoroughly discussed in class. For the last several semesters, Jim and Evelyn Piazza have come to class share the horrendous details that led to the death of their son Timothy on the Penn State campus in February 2017 — the result of an alcohol infused hazing ritual. Their strength is beyond comprehension.

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