Annals of the Association of American Geographers
food security, geopolitics, geoeconomics, hunger
In current geopolitical and geoeconomic discourses, hunger is understood as both a threat to be contained, resulting in an often severe social and spatial localization of food insecurity, and a humanitarian problem to be solved through diffuse global flows of food and other aid. The resulting scalar tensions demonstrate the potentially contradictory alignment of geopolitics and geoeconomics within processes of globalization and neoliberalization. This article examines the geopolitical and geoeconomic place of hunger and the hungry through a critical analysis of the food-for-work (FFW) approach to combating hunger. FFW programs distribute food aid in exchange for labor, and have long been used to plan and deliver food aid. While debate continues as to whether and under what conditions FFW programs are socially and economically just, governments, international institutions, and NGOs tout them as a flexible and efficient way to deliver targeted aid, promote community development, and improve long-term prospects for economic development and food security. In the post-9/11 period, FFW programs are also cited as effective deterrents to terrorist recruitment strategies, while development and food security more broadly have been incorporated into national security strategies, especially but not only in the United States. The food-for-work approach attempts to resolve the scalar contradictions of hunger through the imposition of a labor requirement that disciplines the threat of the hungry while enforcing global connection. Case studies of FFW programs in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Indonesia illustrate this contradiction, and highlight the development and possible future of approaches to hunger under neoliberal geopolitics.
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Essex, Jamey. (2012). Idle hands are the devil’s tools: The geopolitics and geoeconomics of hunger. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102 (1), 191-207.