Famine in Continental Asia: Comparative Perspectives on Environment, Market, State, and Society, 1700–1950
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 2
Sarah I. Cameron, University of Maryland at College Park
Ranin Kazemi, Kansas State University
Lillian M. Li, Swarthmore College
Mridu Rai, Trinity College at Dublin
Famine became an ever recurrent phenomennon in many regions across the globe in the period between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. This roundtable focuses on food scarcity and starvation in continental Asia and delineates their historical contexts in the Ottoman Empire, Iran, Soviet Kazakhstan, India, and China. Caused often by a series of interconnected ecological, economic, social, and political crises, famine has not been adequately studied in the context of Asian history. Explicating key questions and dilemmas of ongoing research on famine and famine-related natural disasters (from drought and climatic change to outbreaks of epidemics and earthquakes), this roundtable brings together fresh historiographical perspectives which are anchored in both new archival research and comparative analysis. Participants discuss food history and subsistence crisis in regions that have heretofore not been in much dialogue with one another. Outlining common patterns and important variations in the history of food crises, they speak of the causes, consequences, as well as short- and long-term implications of famine. Focusing on specific localities, and employing novel approaches and methods, the presentations will address questions such as how central famine was in the history of each country and region; how people, state, and institutions responded in times of subsistence crises; and how relief efforts were organized and culturally promoted. Covering the four corners of the continent, participants demonstrate remarkable parallels in the modern history of Asia. They also tackle the role of religion, market, and other social institutions in the making of these crises, as well as the relief cultures that tried to address them. Situating famine and famine-related issues within the broader historiographical, regional, and world contexts, the discussants in this roundtable - senior and junior scholars - wish to step outside their respective areas of study and initiate a much-needed dialogue on the subject that has broad, theoretical implications for the modern history of these and other regions across the world.