Şerefe: The Culture & Regulation of Alcohol in Turkey with Kyle Evered

Attitudes toward intoxication can be unstable. The government of Turkey, for example, within a single generation went from producing alcohol and promoting its consumption as civil and modern, to restricting the consumption of alcohol and prohibiting its advertisement, right down to cellphone ringtones that sound like beer bottles opening. A culture once known for its Bektashi Sufis and Janissary soldiers, both famous for enjoying alcohol, now faces increasing pressure to dry out. This remarkable turnaround is indicative of the ways in which societies regulate alcohol by cultural norms and legal statues that are all subject to change.    

In this episode of Stories from the Stacks, historical geographer Kyle Evered, associate professor at Michigan State University, discusses the culture and regulation of alcohol in Turkey, from the late Ottoman Empire through the early Republican period and up to the present day. Religion, ethnic & sectarian identity, and political ideals all played a role in shaping attitudes toward alcohol. While the Ottomans tolerated alcohol, the early Turkish republic positively promoted it, while the twenty-first century rise of the AKP (Justice & Development Party) has led to increasing restrictions on alcohol in the name of tradition and public health.

Using Hagley Library collections, including the Seagram Collections, Dr. Evered discovered that Turkish alcohol producers, such as the global firm Efes Beverage, face similar pressures as did North American firms during prohibition of alcohol in the United States. Strategies deployed by Seagram in attempting to remain economically viable in the face of prohibition included retooling and relocation of production facilities, and making concerted effort to push back against the regulatory regime. By studying the Seagram experience, Dr. Evered gained new perspective with which to compare the regulation of alcohol in Turkey.

To support his use of Hagley Library collections, Dr. Evered received an Exploratory Research Grant from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society. More information on funding opportunities for research at Hagley can be found here.

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Interview by Michael Forino. Produced by Gregory Hargreaves.

Image: From the cover of Nation’s Business, August 1921, nationsbiz_081921, Nation’s Business (f HF1.N38), Published Collections Department, Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, DE 19807.