The King of Drinks
Dmitri van den Bersselaar
Imported schnapps gin has a remarkable history in West Africa. Gin was imported in great quantities between 1880 and World War I, when its consumption showed access to the modern, international world. Subsequently schnapps was transformed into a good that signified traditional, local culture. Today, imported schnapps has high status because of its importance for African ritual and as symbol of the status of chiefs and elders, but actual consumption is limited. This book explores this unexpected trajectory of commoditisation to investigate how imported goods acquire specific local meanings. This analysis of consumption and marketing of gin contributes to our understanding of patterns of consumption, rejection and appropriation within processes of identity formation, elite formation, and the redefinition of community in colonial and postcolonial West Africa.