Humanitarianism and the Anthropology of Hunger
While the early view of hunger as the product of a world population too large to sustain has largely been eliminated, and the mainstream international community has come to accept that food insecurity results from issues of distribution rather than an insufficient global food supply, the emphasis on biotechnology in agriculture, humanitarianism in international aid, and social justice in international human rights law in the contemporary era has contributed to other barriers that prevent hunger alleviation.
In this thesis, I argue that these previous contemporary developments have had the capacity to hide hunger. My analysis of technology and humanitarian aid is supplemented largely by a discussion of hunger in the remote village of Bom Jesus in Northeast Brazil. In this setting, cultural beliefs, political repression, and postcolonial structures influence the way hunger is conceptualized – as the individualized ethnomedical condition, nervos, rather the social condition it is.
Critiques of humanitarianism and international aid have existed in academia for years but have become increasingly prevalent over the last quarter century. While I seek to prove that science and international aid and human rights law sometimes hinder efforts to relieve world hunger, so too does the fact that hunger is unrecognized in regions of the world adhering to cultural beliefs about it and their bodies. My own analysis of cultural constructions of hunger shows how they can exclude certain populations from being considered in aid efforts, which themselves can be problematic.