1st Edition

Food Riots, Food Rights and the Politics of Provisions

Edited By Naomi Hossain, Patta Scott-Villiers Copyright 2017
    198 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    214 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Thousands of people in dozens of countries took to the streets when world food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011. What does the persistence of popular mobilization around food tell us about the politics of subsistence in an era of integrated food markets and universal human rights? This book interrogates this period of historical rupture in the global system of subsistence, getting behind the headlines and inside the politics of food for people on low incomes.

    The half decade of 2007–2012 was a period of intensely volatile food prices as well as unusual levels of popular mobilization, including protests and riots. Detailed case studies are included here from Bangladesh, Cameroon, India, Kenya and Mozambique. The case studies illustrate that political cultures and ways of organizing around food share much across geography and history, indicating common characteristics of the popular politics of provisions under capitalism. However, all politics are ultimately local, and it is demonstrated how the historic fallout of a subsistence crisis depends ultimately on how the actors and institutions articulate, negotiate and reassert their specific claims within the peculiarities of each policy.

    A key conclusion of the book is that the politics of provisions remain essential to the right to food and that they involve unruliness. In other words, food riots work. The book explains how and why they continue to do so even in the globalized food system of the 21st century. Food riots signal a state unable to meet a principal condition of its social contract, and create powerful pressure to address that most fundamental of failings.


    1. Introduction

    Patta Scott-Villiers and Naomi Hossain

    2. A World In Protest

    Sara Burke

    3. Framing ‘food riots’: subsistence protests in international and national media, 2007-12

    Naomi Hossain, Devangana Kalita, Bonface Omondi, Lucio Posse, Vaibhav Raaj, Muhammad Ashikur Rahman, and Michael Sambo

    4. Food riots in Bangladesh? Garments worker protests and globalized subsistence crises

    Ferdous Jahan and Naomi Hossain

    5. "We eat what we have, not what we want": The policy effects of food riots and eating after the 2008 crisis in Cameroon

    Lauren Sneyd

    6. Demanding accountability for hunger in India

    Anuradha Joshi, Biraj Patnaik and Dipa Sinha

    7. The Constitution Lies to Us! Food Protests in Kenya 2008-2013

    Celestine Musembi and Patta Scott-Villiers

    8. Authoritarian responsiveness and the greve in Mozambique

    Luís de Brito, Egídio Chaimite and Alex Shankland

    9. How ‘food riots’ work, and what they mean for development

    Naomi Hossain and Patta Scott-Villiers



    Naomi Hossain is a political sociologist at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. Her most recent book is The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success (Oxford University Press, 2017).

    Patta Scott-Villiers is a political sociologist and convenes the Power and Popular Politics Cluster at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. She is lead author of  Precarious Lives: Food Work and Care after the Global Food Crisis (Institute of Development Studies, 2016).