Friday, January 7, 2011

Food Riots! Economic pressures in poorer countries and the social effects of food shortages

The brief I have given myself for this blog is to look at the future of food and violence in the west. But of course my often stated agenda is to get westerners to look at life in developing countries and into their own country's past for examples of resilience and struggle in periods of violent upheaval. In that light I recently contacted Amy Bentley Associate Professor of Food Studies at the NYU Steinardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and author of Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity after discovering her contribution to the book Food, drink and identity: cooking, eating and drinking in Europe since the Middle Ages. Her chapter entitled 'Reading Food Riots: Scarcity, Abundance, and National Identity' made me think about the social responses to the onset of scarcity and the role that markets and governments have to play in bringing affordable and culturally appropriate food to the people.
So it was timely when today I found a Jan 7, 2011 article at about unrest in Algeria over "price hikes for milk, sugar and flour in recent days". The article entitled 'World on brink of social unrest over food prices' discussed food inflation in Africa and across Asia quoting unnamed "international organisations" as saying there is going to be a global "food price shock". This seems quite plausible to me as there has been much talk in the US about inflationary pressures around food and with many European governments unable to exercise control over economic factors affecting inflationary pressures.
Amy Bentley's writings on food riots impressed me so much because she demonstrated empathy through her conclusions saying that rioting resulting from price hikes and lack of availability of staple and cultural foods was caused by "intense frustration and anger at being trapped in a global economic web in which they seem to have no agency".

Coconut crisis in Sri Lanka caused by loss of plantations to new housing developments!

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