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The Anthropology of Food: Consuming Passions - Research Paper Example

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Running Head: Politics of Famines Politics of Famines [Name] [University] Introduction The history of mankind is fraught with stories of famines. These were times of crops failures, supplies runouts, and massive starvations. In the area of studies on famine, there does not exist consensus among researchers on the issues related to the famine causes, famine effects, preventive measures to tackle famines, etc…
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The Anthropology of Food: Consuming Passions

Download file to see previous pages... Famine and its Classification Just as there are many views on famines and the issues related to famines, scholars have produced a variety of definitions of famine. Generally, famine is defined as “widespread and extensive scarcity of food applicable to any species that results in malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality” (Glawe, 2009). According to Brown and Eckholm, famine can be understood as “a sudden, sharp reduction in the food supply in any particular geographic locale has usu-ally resulted in widespread hunger and famine” (Brown and Eckholm, 1974, p. 25). Similarly, Aykroyd observes the causes of famine in the following way: “two years of poor rainfall may be followed by a third year without any rain at all. It is then that famine makes its appearance…” (Ackroyd, 1974, p. 1). Here, as one can easily see, famine is interpreted as an act of nature. Yet, the realities of the twentieth century with its horrible famines in various parts of the world, led the scholars to contesting the views discussed in the previous paragraph. Importantly, Amartya Sen, the prominent economist and distinguished philosopher, who is known to have lived through the famine in Bengal in 1943 worked out a new understanding of famine. A member of a well-known family that helped the destitute during the famine, Sen opens his highly influential and super original book entitled Poverty and Famines (published in 1981) with the view that ‘starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat.’ (Sen, 1981, p. 2). Putting it bluntly, the author contends that the shortage of food supplies is perceived as a necessary condition for famines start, but it is not a sufficient one. Political reasons, e.g. entitlements that include the command over supplies of food and other non-edible commodities, matters greatly. Therefore, according to Sen, famines can be so easily prevented by human activity that “it is amazing that they are allowed to occur at all” (Sen, 2001, p. 75). As it can be easily inferred, the modern understanding of famine is based on its underlying political ingredient. The classification of famines offered by Bulliet et al allows distinguishing between natural, commercial, and political famines (Bulliet et al, 2010, p. 843). As it can be easily seen, this classification is rather successful since it enables to combine both, first-generation and second-generation interpretations of famine, and stresses their historical background. Natural famines occurred whenever rains failed for a couple of years in succession. For example, in India, which is particularly dependent on monsoon rains, famines have been known to strike twice a century or even oftener. In the eighteenth century, several million people died of starvation during three famines in India. Commercial famines are known to have been caused by the merchants’ interests and lack of government regulation of free enterprise. Despite the fact that there existed lots of ways to transport food to famine affected areas, merchants seeking great profits artificially held up transportation of grains to the poor regions until they found out the price was high enough. Then, based on commercial interest, food was transported to those areas that could afford buying it or exported to other ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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