The Ethos of the Binge: drunkenness and modernity in twentieth-century New Orleans Restricted; Files & ToC

Griggs, Hannah (Summer 2022)

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“The city abounds with tippling houses,” wrote a visitor to New Orleans in 1802. “At every cross street of the town and suburbs, one sees those places of riot and intoxication crowded day and night.” Debauchery in and around New Orleans—bars on nearly every block, wild Mardi Gras balls, nightly parties on Bourbon Street—has historically been as much celebrated as abhorred. Unlike this unhappy visitor, this dissertation is concerned with those “places of riot and intoxication.” The Ethos of the Binge: drunkenness and modernity in twentieth century New Orleans asks, what does it mean to revel? What does it mean to debauch?

New Orleans is a significant place upon which to focus this question because it is a city found at the hub of the Atlantic world, and a place occupied by major Western empires for the past three hundred years. Each chapter focuses on a different way that inebriation and alcoholic excess has been constructed and represented in New Orleans, and how the city’s colonial past informs its culture of drink. Through close readings of narratives, artifacts, and archives, I argue that New Orleans’s culture of revelry is inseparable from the racialized economies that built the transatlantic colonial world and have thus shaped our modern experiences of pleasure. This work highlights the necessity and urgency in the study of leisure, pleasure, and excess. How leisure time is constructed—how we drink, how we party, how we revel, and how we debauch—is a source of collective power that reifies our humanity in direct opposition to the systems of power that uphold white supremacy.

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