HomeDrinking in the Nordic and Germanic Countries

HomeDrinking in the Nordic and Germanic Countries

Drinking in the Nordic and Germanic Countries

Boire dans les pays nordiques et germaniques

Vice & Virtue Project

Projet Vice & Vertu

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Published on Thursday, June 29, 2023


As the first part of the international, multi-annual “Vice & Vertu” project, the aim of the “Drinking in the Nordic and Germanic countries” conference is to examine past and present practices of “drinking” and to explore the normative issues involved, from the medieval period to the present day. “Vice et Vertu” (V&V) is a multi-year international research programme supported by the Universities of the Sorbonne, Caen, Turku/TIAS, Umeå and Oslo. The V&V project also aims to integrate young and up-and-coming researchers into Northern European and Francophone research networks through seminars, workshops and colloquia organised at partner universities in France and Northern Europe.


Conference 12-14 June 2024, Sorbonne University, Paris


“Vice” and “Virtue” are terms which are still widely used in many fields and sectors such as finance, ecology or media, even though they are now largely disentangled from religion. In cultures where, according to the Lutheran maxim, Humanity has been considered as simul justus, simul peccator, semper penitens, the imperative of virtue and the fierce temptation of vice have left deep marks and existential interrogations. States and institutions have had a key role for the edification and the education of the souls and hearts. But on which foundations were built the politics of vice and virtue? What are vices and virtues today and how did they evolve in time and space? What cultural and linguistic realities do they refer to? 

The V&V-project builds on an epistemological and anthropological reflection which aims at analyzing on the long run the categories of vice and virtue and their transformation in the Nordic and Germanic societies from the Middle Age to the “secular Age” (Taylor, 2007).

It analyzes the narratives and the politics of vice and virtues through different thematics, the first being “Drinking”. This theme will be the subject of the first conference of the V&V-project, held in Paris, 12th-14th of June 2024.

The V&V project proposes to address the Act of Drinking through four main axes, but remains open to other contributions and themes.

1 - Drinking and Power

The first axis will focus on the entanglement of drinking and power in order to analyze social contract, power relations and conflict resolution. It covers a long period of time, from the Middle Age to the contemporary period. It will focus on the importance of drinking from the Medieval times, such as the ritual libations and the elite sociabilities in the medieval halls (Enright, 1996; Andersen & Pajung, 2014) to the expected sobriety of political figures in more recent times. Furthermore, “Power and drinking” questions the politics of regulation from the Middle Ages to the present day, whether to ensure public health and order, to regulate trade, or for moral and spiritual reasons. We will therefore be interested in the history of public health policies, medical and commercial practices, as well as campaigns of control or the politics of sobriety displayed by public figures, and their influences on the different consumption patterns in the Nordic and Germanic countries (Moskalewicz et al., 2016).

It will also examine “drinking” through the eye of conflictuality in more recent times. Drinking is actually a field of domination and power, related for example to class or gender issues (Eriksen, 1999, 2023) or to the relations between states and populations. To this end, it would be appropriate to analyze the role of alcohol in the colonial and post-colonial relations between states and indigenous populations, and its echo in contemporary narratives, scientific discourses (Sørensen, 1999) and identity building (Olsen, 2009). We will be interested in the drinking issue either in processes of political and cultural domination or in processes of resistance, such as within Læstadian Christianity in Northern Scandinavia. We will also be interested in the mass-movements and their view on alcohol, such as revivals and temperance movements, and we will be particularly concerned by gender (Kaartinen, 2011), class perspectives (Fuglum, 1999) or religion (Harry, 2021).

What does one drink according to times, spaces and milieus? What does “drinking” represent in medieval, modern and contemporary Nordic and Germanic societies? How are power and domination embodied in drinking habits and practices? How have health, medical and economic policies been formed? What considerations and norms do they reflect? How has alcohol been intertwined with social protest and the emergence of new groups and collective identities? These questions are only to be seen as proposals and all kinds of papers related to the issue of power and drinking will be considered. 

2 - Blurring the Lines

The second axis, “Blurring the Line”, invites contributions dealing with the artistic representations of beverages and their consumers. The staging of the relationship between all kinds of drinks and the consumers is to be found in many artistic works, from paintings and photography to literature and cinema. In Viking times, for example, the emblematic drinking horns could be instruments of ostentation of wealth and power, but their apparent decline during the 12th century and the establishment of Christianity seem to mark a change in the way we look at these objects, a turn that is certainly associated with paganism and lust by the Church (Etting, 2013). More recently, in arts, the drinking character is often associated with a moral judgment but also with the subversion of norms, aesthetics and canon, as we see for example, with David Holm (Körkarlen, Selma Lagerlöf, 1912; Victor Sjöström, 1921) or Alfred Jönsson (Vieras mies tuli taloon, Mika Waltari, 1937; Wilho Ilmari, 1938). Alcohol is also a thread in modernist paintings - for example in Symposium (Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1894) -, as well as in current Nordic and Germanic audiovisual productions. This aspect is particularly noteworthy in the Norwegian series Exit (Petter Testmann-Koch, 2019) which follows four ruthless sharks with a strong penchant for alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.. The centrality of alcohol in Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg, Druk, 2020), The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Verdens verste menneske, 2021) or in many series for a young audience, the omnipresence of a cup of coffee in almost all Nordic noir series show the importance of drinking as a cultural fact. Moreover, it is also important to consider how artistic productions are attached to social moments where drinking is central, like the repertoires of songs performed in this context, the speeches and its stylistic codes, during a ceremony or a dinner. 

In the wake of Kierkegaard’s In vino veritas, this axis is interested in the representation of drinking as well as in the artistic production under the effects of alcohol, coffee or others. The aim is to highlight the circulation of representations, the sharing of imaginary worlds, and common socio-cultural concerns. Thus, this axis underlines the role of Nordic arts and media in public debates on social issues. In doing so, it reminds us of the anchoring of artistic and literary representations in the wake of, or in opposition to, the normative conceptions in the Nordic space. As such, we are interested in the artistic and literary representation of drinking and, more globally, the imaginary surrounding the act of drinking in Nordic and Germanic cultures.

3 - What Languages Tell about Drinking

The third axis entitled “What languages tell about Drinking” finds its inspiration in the multidisciplinary field of anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. The notion of “purism”, attested and widespread in language policy, depicts an ideology of a pure language, which preserves authenticity by reducing lexical, morphological, syntactic and phonetic borrowings from foreign languages (Vikør, 2010). Focusing on the semantic meanings of the pairing “vice” vs “virtue”, purity seems to be implicitly related to a virtue of language. What kind of ideological power endorses language to convey positive or negative interpretations related to Drinking, and what discursive factors are they based on? Diverse ascriptions of moral and aesthetic values with linguistic units will therefore be particularly stimulating to analyze.

One of the aims of this axis will be to account for the semantic fields of the act of drinking and feasting on a collective and individual scale, while highlighting the importance of language to describe and explain social practices linked to beverage.

Idiomatic phrases in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and other Nordic languages reflect sociologically anchored habits shared by a national and social community. Expressions in Norwegian such as å være beruset /i bakrus, bakfull/ fyllesjuk klein ; alkis, dritings; sjaber-sjo ; “full som en alke”, or veisalgia refer to elementary daily habits and their engendered physical and psychic effects, but degrees of language formality and metaphorical structures tell us more than the only act of drinking and its consequences. 

Naming and qualifying these physical and psychological states (Wiese et al., 2000) represent a rich analytical perspective in linguistics, because it highlights language functionality in the service of drinking (Hylland, 2021), and underlines the multiplicity of textual registers (medical language, formal language, slang, etc.). These semiotic registers (Agha, 2007) can be endogenous, with the creation of a jargon by consumers (Weihe, 2000), or exogenous, giving rise to stereotypical media recuperation (cf. the labellisation of Kebab Norwegian derived from the food lexicon). The synchronic approach can thus shed light on the use of language to describe actions and activities related to “drinking”, while also clarifying their social implications (both inclusive and exclusive). The diachronic approach will draw up a linguistic chronology that is at once etymological, anthropological and cultural.

Moreover, a particular attention will be given to the normative dimension, spread and influence of these discourses in the construction of contemporary Nordic societies. The second aim of this axis consists of analyzing discursive and ideological scope of these semiotic registers often generated by dominant groups to establish virtuous practices through language enhancement meanwhile they repress vicious practices through a delinquent indexical field, all of which is taken up and negotiated by minority groups. In line with the “Total Linguistic Fact” theory (Silverstein, 1979, 2003), “drinking” could be considered as a three-part unit (linguistic units, language uses and ideologies) which allows a holistic understanding of linguistic and social practices in the Nordic research field.  In this respect, diversification of textual support will be greatly appreciated, in order to shed light on the way in which "healthy" or “dangerous” practices are put into words. 

4 - The Meanings of Liquids 

The fourth axis will focus on beverages as such and their effects. From magical potions to therapeutic decoctions, from intoxicating beverages to the most “healthy” ones, the aim of this axis is to understand, over a broad period of time, how the typologies of beverages have been constituted and what they say about the implicit codes and rules of a society. What do medieval sources say, for example, about beverages (such as beer or the magical mead in Nordic mythology) and how are they defined and categorized? How are beverages named, represented and described, for example in laws, arts and literature from the Middle Age to the present day? How and when the distinction between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages became heuristically relevant? How and why did “kakao” become one of the beverages par excellence for hiking in Norway? What significance do the categories of beverages have in contemporary societies? Furthermore, we will also be interested in the “effects” of these beverages and how they have been perceived and described under different historical times. We will pay attention to the interpretation and the significance of the effects: What are the sources that mention the effects of drinking (regardless of the beverage) and in which perspective? What does it mean to be “drunk” under different historical periods and how tolerable is this? Since when, for example, is coffee perceived as “energizing”? Or what can we say about the somehow ritual and normative role of drunkenness (russetiden, julebord, midsommar, kräftskiva, parties and Saturday nights) when vice can become, for a moment, a virtue? And what are the social effects in terms of inclusion or exclusion? 

This axis thus explores beverages and their effects as reflections of historical and social contexts and implicit norms, and will pay particular attention to their mentions and descriptions, for example, in manuscripts, laws, science, novels, paintings, newspaper articles, posters, bills, etc.. These questions are to be seen as suggestions, and all papers related to the issue of  “the meanings of liquids” will be considered. 

Submission guidelines

We expect a standard academic abstract with a title and a brief description of the main topic and the key research questions that will be discussed (max. 300 words). Proposals written in French, English and all Nordic languages will be accepted.

Deadline for submissions: 1st october 2023

Proposals should be no more than 300 words in length, including a title and a brief description of the subject and issues, and possibly the area in which they could be included. The working languages will be French, English and all Nordic languages. Proposals should be sent no later than 1 October 2023 to: research.viceandvirtue@gmail

Answers by the end of november 2023

Contact: research.viceandvirtue@gmail.com

Organizing Committee

  • Arne Bugge Amundsen (Universitet i Oslo),
  • Syrielle Deplanque (Sorbonne Université/ UQAM),
  • Sarah Harchaoui (Sorbonne Université),
  • Frédérique Harry (Sorbonne Université),
  • Malin Isaksson (Umeå Universitet),
  • Simon Lebouteiller (Université de Caen),
  • Aymeric Pantet (TIAS, Turun Yliopisto).


  • Paris, France (75)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Sunday, October 01, 2023

Attached files


  • Europe du Nord, boire, Vice & Vertu, norme, études culturelles, civilisation, linguistique, sociologie, histoire, art, média, anthropologie

Information source

  • Aymeric Pantet
    courriel : research [dot] viceandvirtue [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Drinking in the Nordic and Germanic Countries », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, June 29, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1bif

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