Learning to Drink Sorghum Liquor: Taste and Consumption in Military Front-Line Jinmen, Taiwan

Chang-hui Chi


This article asks why sorghum liquor, once a drink choice representing the taste of a dominant class, became a token of Jinmen identity among the islands’ dominated local population. Being a Cold War battlefield, war-stricken Jinmen became a symbol of the Kuomintang government’s determination to recover mainland China. Military authoritarianism transformed Jinmen’s society in countless ways, including consumer fashions. The mass production of sorghum liquor began in 1953, with the military promoting its taste and establishing consumption of the liquor as part of a masculine ethos. This inspired mimicry among local consumers. Sorghum liquor became a local “traditional drink,” and a signifier for an identity that revolved around its consumption. This development arose from local consumers seizing on their limited freedom by making this consumption choice and making it their own under military authoritarian rule. Consumption and taste thus gave new meanings to local identity and community subjectivity.

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