An Ethnography of Hunger

An Ethnography of Hunger

Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun
Kristin D Phillips
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/29/2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-03837-1
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In An Ethnography of Hunger Kristin D. Phillips examines how rural farmers in central Tanzania negotiate the interconnected projects of subsistence, politics, and rural development. Writing against stereotypical Western media images of spectacular famine in Africa, she examines how people live with—rather than die from—hunger. Through tracing the seasonal cycles of drought, plenty, and suffering and the political cycles of elections, development, and state extraction, Phillips studies hunger as a pattern of relationships and practices that organizes access to food and profoundly shapes agrarian lives and livelihoods. Amid extreme inequality and unpredictability, rural people pursue subsistence by alternating between—and sometimes combining—rights and reciprocity, a political form that she calls "subsistence citizenship." Phillips argues that studying subsistence is essential to understanding the persistence of global poverty, how people vote, and why development projects succeed or fail.

Author Bio

Kristin D. Phillips is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University. Her work has appeared in African Studies Review, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology, Comparative Education Review, and Critical Studies in Education.


“This book presents an empirically detailed and powerfully argued analysis of how rural communities negotiate precarious livelihoods amidst pressures to participate in local development.”
 — Lisa Cliggett, author of Grains from Grass: Aging, Gender, and Famine in Rural Africa

“Kristin Phillips has written a compelling, compassionate exploration of the social life of food and hunger in rural Tanzania. She masterfully evokes the voices and visions of everyday people seeking economic security and political justice in the face of deepening inequalities, a negligent state, and exploitative development projects. An Ethnography of Hunger should be read by anyone interested in the intersections of food, power, and sociality in agrarian communities.”
 — Dorothy L. Hodgson, author of Gender, Justice and the Problem of Culture: From Customary Law to Human Rights in Tanzania

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Table of Contents



Introduction: Subsistence Citizenship

PART I: The Frames of Subsistence in Singida: Cosmology, Ethnography, History

Chapter 1 Hunger in Relief: Village Life and Livelihood

Chapter 2 The Unpredictable Grace of the Sun:

Cosmology, Conquest, and the Politics of Subsistence

PART II: The Power of the Poor on the Threshold of Subsistence

Chapter 3 We Shall Meet at the Pot of Ugali:

Sociality, Differentiation, and Diversion in the Distribution of Food

Chapter 4 Crying, Denying, and Surviving Rural Hunger

PART III: Subsistence Citizenship

Chapter 5 Subsistence versus Development

Chapter 6 Patronage, Rights, and the Idioms of Rural Citizenship

Conclusion: The Seasons of Subsistence and Citizenship