Main Article Content

“To drink or not to drink?”: moral ambiguity of alcohol in the

E-UE Nelson


Alcohol is a commodity of immense cultural significance and its consumption is circumscribed by moral conventions. This study explores moral construal of alcohol using qualitative data obtained from 86 Pentecostal Christians in Uyo, Nigeria, which generates contrasting narratives of alcohol. A more dogmatic position denounces alcohol because of its link to moral degeneracy and social problems. A subaltern view contests and seeks to transform this position through the language of moderate consumption. Alcohol occupies an ambiguous position in the moral imagination. It is at once a resource for constructing identity and marking moral boundaries, and a discourse for contesting and transforming moral traditions. Ambiguity in moral construal of alcohol may predispose to hazardous consumption and certainly impedes efforts to address alcohol problems. The need for a coherent dogmatic position on alcohol that restrains harmful consumption and further research to broaden understanding of the moral economy of alcohol are highlighted.

Key Words: Ambiguity, Alcohol, Moral Imagination, Pentecostal, Nigeria