This article is an attempt to ethnographically represent some of the processes in which the meanings and practices of home brewed alcohol affect local legislative practices in Kisoro District, south-western Uganda, in particular taxation. Data from the field shows how home brewed alcohols are taxed differently throughout the district. Some drinks are taxed in one sub-county, but neglected in another and vice versa. The question that concerns this article is why. Building on the work of Sally Falk Moore (1973), this article analyses how alcohol producers, traders, private tax collectors and government officials navigate multiple semi-autonomous social fields that set overlapping and contradicting rules for alcohol trading practices in the area. Specifically, it argues that what qualifies as a taxable alcoholic product depends on local perceptions of alcohol as well as on negotiations between tax collectors and the local population about the meaning of alcohol.
- Semi-autonomous social fields, taxation, traditional alcohol, Uganda