Food, Feeding, and Eating In and Out of Asia

7th Annual International ADI Conference
Asian Dynamics Initiative, University of Copenhagen
24-26 June 2015

Madhusree Mukerjee

Dr. Madhusree Mukerjee

Madhusree Mukerjee is a journalist who writes on a variety of issues ranging from science and environment to colonialism, food security, and globalization. She holds a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago, has served as an editor at Scientific American magazine, and received a Guggenheim fellowship to research her first book, The Land of Naked People: Encounters with Stone Age Islanders (Houghton Mifflin, 2003). This book describes the impact of colonization on the indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman Islands. Her second book, Churchill’ Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (Basic Books, 2010), explores the imperial roots of the Bengal famine of 1943. Currently Mukerjee is working on a book that profiles an indigenous struggle against extractive industries in India.

Abstract: The Imperial Roots of Hunger

During the Victorian era, India lost at least 25 million people to repeated famines.  The calamities resulted from British imperial practices, such as the massive export of food from the colony and conversion of land to cash crops such as cotton and opium. Famines have since vanished, but profound hunger remains the norm. At the same time, economic "reforms" pushed through by global financial institutions have led to a crisis in agriculture: more than a quarter of a million farmers committed suicide in the last fifteen years. The crisis is enabling the conversion of a food system based on small farms to one controlled by giant corporations, and represents a clear and present danger to the food sovereignty, and therefore the survival, of tens of millions of people.