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Whose Hunger?

Whose Hunger?: Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid

Series: Borderlines
Volume: 17
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Whose Hunger?
    Book Description:

    Famine in the contemporary world is not the antithesis of modernity but its symptom. A critical investigation of hunger, famine, and aid practices in international politics, Whose Hunger? shows how the forms and ideas of modernity frame our understanding of famine—and, consequently, shape our responses. From the politics of famine to the practices of aid, from the theories of modernity to the complex emergencies of modern life, from the broad view to the telling detail, this searching book takes us closer than ever to a clear understanding of some of the worst ravages of our time._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6619-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    Famines seem anachronistic. They appear to belong to an era more primitive and less technologically advanced than our own. During the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s there was surprise that a crisis of this sort could take place at all in the twentieth century. It seemed biblical in its scale and imagery. Famines are seen as failures of development and modernization and, what is more, failures that can be overcome by progress and more advanced technology. There are disagreements as to where the difficulty lies, whether in the agricultural system, in economic distribution, or in population growth. There is even...

  6. 1 Pictures of Hunger
    (pp. 1-14)

    Famine is embedded in the discursive practices of modernity. Hunger has only recently been brought within the province of the human sciences, and these disciplines themselves, with “man” as their object, only came into being at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries.¹ The incorporation of hunger into the episteme, or way of thinking, of the modern human sciences has refashioned it according to different, specifically modern, rationalities. It has been removed from the realm of the ethical and the political and brought under the sway of experts and technologists of nutrition, food distribution, and development....

  7. 2 The Emergence of Famine in Modernity
    (pp. 15-42)

    A break from classical ways of thought took place at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. This discontinuity marked the beginning of the modern episteme in European thought and gave rise to the birth of the human sciences and the production, as an object of knowledge, of their subject, “man.”¹ At this point and not before, a framework arose within which we could ask the question: Is famine man-made, or is it a natural disaster? At this point, too, a notion of generalized scarcity and the competition for resources in the face of a hostile...

  8. 3 Availability and Entitlement
    (pp. 43-66)

    Offering food aid to suffering victims of famine was widely regarded by the international community, donor states, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as an uncontentious example of humanitarianism until recently. A starving population was assumed to be in need of relief in the form of food supplies, and this was duly, although often belatedly, offered. This seemingly straightforward response in fact invokes a specifically Malthusian notion of what famines are. The Malthusian approach that I discussed in the previous chapter arose alongside the epistemic shift to modernity that took place at the beginning of the nineteenth century. As an approach to...

  9. 4 Practices of Aid
    (pp. 67-102)

    The concepts of famine produced with the shift to the episteme of modernity have generated specific practices of aid. These practices are variously presented as global food aid, emergency famine relief, and development programs. These distinctions play an important role in negotiations between donors and implementing agencies. Agencies rely for their identity on particular constructions, each having concern and legitimacy historically in a particular area. The distinctions can be crucial in policy making and when matters of power and control are disputed between the different agencies involved.¹ However, the disciplinary processes are similar, whether it is food aid, famine relief,...

  10. 5 Response and Responsibility
    (pp. 103-128)

    Despite the depoliticization of hunger that the modern concept of famine produces, and despite the technologization of aid and its translation into disciplinary practices of control and oppression, we still find that, when faced with pictures of hunger, people respond. That response is often a call to ethico-political action that goes beyond the technical, depoliticized practices of aid. How might we account for personal responses to famine and other international humanitarian crises? As an example, I discuss responses to famines in Ethiopia that culminated in the Band Aid and Live Aid events in 1984 and 1985.¹ In some of those...

  11. 6 Complex Emergency and (Im)possible Politics
    (pp. 129-152)

    The incorporation of hunger into the discourses of modernity gave rise to a depoliticized, technologized approach to famine theorizing and famine relief, as I discussed in chapter 2. A brief challenge from Sen’s entitlement approach became depoliticized, as did the flicker of repoliticization that arose with Band Aid and the famine movement in the mid-1980s. At the end of the previous chapter, I argued that there might be a way of maintaining a more avowedly political stance in relation to suffering and disaster, one that acknowledges the need for a continual process of involvement and decisioning and does not try...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 153-160)

    Aspects of hunger in the physical, embodied sense of a desire for food have been explored in this study of famine. Discursive practices constitute famine in modernity in particular ways and these technologize and depoliticize questions of famine relief. Practices of food aid, as disciplinary practices, impose a techno-disciplinary framework that naturalizes certain political relationships. Some forms of response to famines challenge this technologization, but these are retechnologized in developmentalism, humanitarianism, and other ways.

    Nancy Scheper-Hughes, in her bookDeath without Weeping, makes a similar argument following a study of the medicalization of hunger in Brazil. There, people who are...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 161-206)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 207-224)
  15. Index
    (pp. 225-236)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-237)