Food riots as representations of insecurity: examining the relationship between contentious politics and human security

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The 2007–08 global food crisis saw the eruption of a wave of contentious action across the developing world, represented most clearly by the food riot. Food riots are sudden, unexpected events, presenting a challenge to the state that moves beyond simple demands for food. The upheaval caused by a food riot can lead to lasting instability and violence as social and political structures are challenged. The aims of the article are to: (1) identify the character of contemporary food riots in relation to traditional forms; (2) determine the extent to which food riots can be seen to represent broader human insecurity; and (3) demonstrate the utility of contentious actions in demonstrating insecurity. This article examines the causes of the 2007–08 wave of food riots in relation to earlier manifestations. The findings show that the contemporary food riots have similar origins to their historical counterparts. The article also shows that food riots are a clear sign of insecurity, demonstrating the benefit of examining contentious politics in this context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-49
Number of pages19
JournalConflict, Security and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2012

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