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THE 2020 FESTIVAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCE
DIGITAL-FIRST EVENT 7-15 NOV 2020
FoSS and ESRC logos

Three Meals Away from Anarchy? Food Insecurity and Instability in an Era of Protest

09th November 2020 14:00-15:30
Interactive activity

About this event

The role that rapidly increasing food prices or food shortages may play in the onset of social unrest and political change has intrigued observers for many years. This has attracted renewed interest in recent years with sharp rises in prices in many societies occurring at the same time as significant levels of instability, protest and upheaval. It seems intuitively reasonable to assume that anger over food prices and the availability of food can play a role in such instability – for example, in Tunisia and other countries of the ‘Arab Spring’. However, not all countries affected by sharp food price increases experience unrest, and so there remain doubts as to whether rising food prices significantly increase the likelihood of instability in isolation from other conflict drivers. This talk will explore the role of rising food prices in instability by focusing on food riots, at a time of rising prices and food insecurity globally. It presents new, original data on food riots and protests between 2005 and 2020 and it explores the societal conditions in which these riots occur. Through this, the talk will consider the broader significance of food riots and protests in relation to conflict and instability. It will also demonstrate the role of social science in understanding the implications of such challenges. Key questions will include: What is driving increases in food commodity prices globally? Should instability related to the price and availability of essential foodstuffs be seen as an expression of grievances over absolute poverty and food insecurity – an expression principally of hunger – or an indication of grievances rooted in broader political contestation? How can global food prices be better managed to reduce food insecurity? What has been the impact of Covid-19 upon food insecurity globally? Will this contribute to new waves of instability and conflict? This interactive session will be accessible to the interested public as well as students and public servants who have an interest in international politics, security and development. It will focus on something that captures the public imagination – food riots – and link this to broader questions and pressing problems around international security, the environment, and access to food. The speaker will draw upon his recent project results, which includes fieldwork conducted in Pakistan and Tunisia.

Speaker: Prof. Edward Newman is Professor of International Security in the School of Politics and International Studies, and Head of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Leeds

Chaired by: Dr. Markus Fraundorfer is Lecturer in Global Governance in the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds