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Food as a Weapon: Interview with Andrea Graziosi

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The interview with Andrea Graziosi deals with the shocking concept of a ‘political famine’. During human history, famines have not always been a ‘natural’ consequence of a bad harvest, or of a dry period, but have often taken on political overtones. As Graziosi explains, a political famine is ‘the use of hunger in order to achieve political or military aims: to make an enemy surrender, to force someone to do or accept something he does not like, to subjugate or destroy a people’. Therefore, in the first answer Graziosi explains that the political or military use of hunger has been a very common phenomenon throughout the centuries. In the Soviet Union there were severe political famines, for example in 1921–22, in 1931–33 and in 1946–47, as the author says in the second answer; and the same happened in other socialist countries characterised by a ‘planned’ economy. Between them, Graziosi reminds us (in the third answer) of the case of the Chinese famine in 1958–59, which followed Mao’s Great Leap Forward and which has many similarities and differences with Stalin’s political famines. To conclude, in the fourth answer Graziosi comes back to nowadays, dealing with more recent political famines and underling that in our contemporary world we could discover other cases of a political use of hunger. In few words – Graziosi is sure – ‘food will still be used also as a political tool’.
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Keywords: Mao; Political famine; Stalin; hunger; planned economy

Document Type: Special Article

Publication date: 01 October 2016

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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