Brown University
E. Messer & staff
Fall, l994



This course will analyze world hunger problems from ecological, political-economic, sociocultural, and nutritional perspectives. Drawing on archaeological, historical, and contemporary evidence, we will investigate the different types of hunger (food shortage, insufficient entitlement to food, food deprivation due to sociocultural or health factors); the contexts in which these types of hunger arise; and the efforts that have been made over the centuries to end hunger.

Part I will focus on the ecology and politics of seasonal hunger and famine; Part II on chronic hunger and food poverty; and Part III on social groups especially vulnerable to food deprivation and various dimensions of malnutrition. All are interrelated. The course, while focusing on hunger in the Third World, will touch also on problems of hunger in industrialized nations and the prospects for improving the food/nutrition situations in both rich and poor nations. Concluding issues for discussion will include: sustainable food systems; population, health, and nutrition policy; and global interdependence.

To connect these global perspectives on hunger to particular peoples and places, each student will select one nation as a focus (case study) for more extensive research and for two written assignments. The first will deal with the ecology and politics of food availability in the nation selected. The second will explore a particular sociocultural, political economic, or nutritional dimension of hunger/hunger interventions.


  1. Nutrient analysis exercise: Hunger in the U.S. (by Thursday, Octber 6)
  2. First short written assignment (by Thursday, October 27)
  3. Second short written assignment (by Tuesday, November 29)
  4. Essay Final Exam
Assignment 1 will be graded pass/fail. Assignments 2-4 will each count for 1/3 of the final grade.


Each session will have required readings, which will complement lectures. There will also be recommended readings for many topics. These are a guide to further exploration of particular subject areas for your interest.


Six required texts have been ordered at the Brown University Bookstore. They should be read along with the appropriate parts of the course:

Uvin, Peter, ed. l994 The Hunger Report: 1993. The World Hunger Program, Brown University. New York: Gordon & Breach

Dreze, J. and A. Sen l989 Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Heiser, C. l990 Seed to Civilization. New Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Huss-Ashmore, R. and S. Katz, eds. l989 African Food Systems in Crisis. Part One: Microperspectives New York: Gordon and Breach

Lappe, Frances Moore and Joseph Collins l978 Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity. NY: Ballantine (with Part II)

Berg, Alan l973 The Nutrition Factor. Washington, DC: Brookings (with Part III)

In addition, there are a number of recommended texts available for purchase:

Barraclough, Solon L. l991 And End to Hunger?: The Social Origins of Food Strategies. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Zed Books

George, S. l985 Ill Fares the Land. New York: Penguin

van Esterik, P. l989 Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press

Also recommended for purchase is a xeroxed set of required class readings that are available at Copy Center 2, Basement, Metcalf Lab, l90 Thayer Street. All required and recommended readings are on reserve at the Rock.


Sept. 13-15 Biological and Sociocultural Aspects of Human Beings, Human Food Systems, and Hunger.


Ritenbaugh, Cheryl (l978) Human Foodways: A Window on Evolution. IN E. Bauwens, Ed., Anthropology and Health. St. Louis: Mosby, pp. lll-l20 (reprint)


Dreze, J. and A. Sen (l989) Hunger and Public Action., pp.l-l9.

Grigg, David. (l985) The World Food Problem. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp.l-53

Messer, E. (l994) Overview. The Hunger Report: 1993, pp.ix-xiii and Uvin, P. (l994) The State of World Hunger. The Hunger Report: 1993, pp.1-25

Sept. 20- Human Nutritional Requirements and Hunger


Scrimshaw, Nevin S. and Vernon Young (l976) The Requirements of Human Nutrition. Scientific American 235,3:5l-65 (reprint)

Dreze and Sen, pp.35-6l


Stini, W.A. (l988) Food, Seasonality, and Human Evolution. IN Coping with Uncertainty in Food Supply. Garine and G.A. Harrison, Eds. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp.32-51

Willett, W. (l994) Diet and Health: What Should We Eat? Science 264:532-537

What are recommended minimum intakes of energy and essential nutrients? How are dietary requirements and allowances set? How do cultural food habits affect adequacy of intakes?

Sept. 22- Hunger in the U.S. and Providence


Brown, Larry (l987) Hunger in the U.S. Scientific American (February l987): 36-41

Hinton, A.W., J. Heimindinger, and S.Foerster (l990) Position of the American Dietetic Association: Domestic Hunger and Inadequate Access to Food. American Dietetic Association Reports 90.10:l437-41

The Medford Declaration (handout for class discusson)

Are the hunger standards the same in the U.S. as in the rest of the world?

What opportunities are there for working against hunger in the greater Providence area?


Sept. 27- "In the Beginning...": The Foraging Adaptation


Sahlins, Marshall (l972) The Original Affluent Society. IN Stone Age Economics. Chicago: Aldine, Ch. 1, pp.l-39

Film: "Bitter Melons"

What resources are available in the environment? How do people allot their time to food-getting? What is the social organization of food production and gathering? What lessons do contemporary foragers offer for coping with hunger?


Shostak, M. l98l/2 Nisa: The Life and Words of !Kung Woman. New York: Random House

Sept. 29- Seasonality, Scheduling, and the Ongoing Origins of Agriculture Readings:

Heiser, Charles (l990) Seed to Civilization. New Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (selected readings)

Colson, Elizabeth (l979) In Good Years and Bad: Food Strategies in Self-Reliant Societies. Journal of Anthropological Research 35:l8-29


Flannery, K.V. (l969) Origins and Ecological Effects of Early Domestication in Iran and the Near East. IN Prehistoric Agriculture. S. Struever, Ed. pp.50-79 (book or reprint)

Flannery, K.V. (l968) Archaeological Systems Theory and Early Mesoamerica. IN Streuever, Ed., pp. 80-l00

Flannery, K.V. et. al. (l967) Farming Systems and Political Growth in Ancient Oaxaca. IN Struever, Ed., pp. l57-78

Why/how did agriculture begin?
How abrupt is the transition from gathering to gardening?
What are the major and minor Old and New World crops?
What is the relationship between agriculture and herding?
How do the ongoing origins of agriculture mitigate or intensify hunger problems?

October 4-6 Managing or Mismanaging The Ecology

Environmental Engineering: Land and Water Resources; Lessons from the Ancient Near East


Jacobsen, Thorkild, and Robert M. Adams (l958) Salt and Silt in Ancient Mesopotamian Agriculture. Science l28:l252-58

Ludwig, D., R. Hilborn, and C. Waters (l993) Uncertainty, Resource Exploitation and Conservation. Science 260:17-18

Genetic Engineering: Germplasm Resources; The Columbian Exchange and The Irish Potato Famine The Case of Rice


Ross, Eric B. (l986) Potatoes, Population, and the Irish Famine: The Political Economy of Demographic Change. IN W.P. Handworker (ed). Culture and Reproduction. Boulder, CO: Westview, pp. l96-220 (reprint)

Heiser, (entire--skim, then concentrate on crop plants that interest you)

Messer, E. and P. Heywood l990 Trying Technology. Neither Sure Nor Soon. Food Policy (August l990): 336-45


Kloppenburg, Jack R., and Daniel L. Kleinman. (l988) Plant Genetic Resources: The Common Bowl. IN Seeds and Sovereignty. The use and Control of Plant Genetic Resources. J. Kloppenburg, Ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp.1-11

Film: "Rice"

What is the complex relationship between the diffusion of agricultural resources and hunger?

How do modern technologies in agriculture alleviate but also foster different types of hunger problems over the short and long term?

Oct. 11-18 Famines in Africa


Huss-Ashmore, R. and S. Katz, eds. (l989) African Food Systems in Crisis. Part One: Microperspectives New York: Gordon and Breach. Essays by Huss-Ashmore, R. "Perspectives on the Afrian Food Crisis" (pp.3-42); Messer, E. "The Ecology and Politics of Food Availability", pp. l89-202; Curry, J. "Occupation and Drought Vulnerability; Case Studies from a Village in Niger" (pp.239-60); Sukkary-Stolba, S. "Indigenous Institutions and Adaptation to Famine: The Case of the Western Sudan" (pp.28l-94)

Curtis, Donald, Michael Hubbard, and Andrew Shepherd (l988) Famine and the National and International Economy. Preventing Famine, NY: Routledge, pp. ll-27

Dreze and Sen, pp.62-l2l

Cohen, David W. and E.S. Atieno Adhiambo (l989) Siaya. The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape. pp. 61-84

What are historical roots of famine in Africa?
What are the ecological versus political dimensions of famine problems?
How might local, national, and international resources be combined productively to alleviate hunger problems?


Huss-Ashmore, R. and S. Katz, eds. (l989) African Food Systems in Crisis. Part One: Microperspectives New York: Gordon and Breach (remaining essays)

King, Preston (l986) An African Winter. NY: Viking Penguin (entire)

Oct. 20-25 Famines in Asia


Li, Lillian M. (l982) Introduction: Food, Famine, and the Chinese State. IN Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 41, No.4: 687-707 (reprint)

McAlpin, Michelle B. (l987) Famine Relief Policy in India: Six Lessons for Africa. World Hunger Program Occasional Papers 87,2.

Dreze and Sen, pp. l22-6l; 204-25; 257-59


How do national food and famine relief policies affect food supply and political stability?

What lessons does the Asian experience hold for African famine prevention and relief efforts?

What role does the press play in famine prevention and response?

Oct. 27- Foodwars: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives


Messer, E. (l994) Foodwars: Hunger as a Weapon of War in l993. The Hunger Report: 1993 pp.43-70 Clay, Jason (1992) Resource Wars: Nation-State Conflicts of the Twentieth Century. IN Growing Our Future: Food Security and the Environment. K.Smith and T. Yamamori, eds. Kumarian Press, pp.54-67


Mason, Linda and Roger Brown (l983) Rice, Rivalry, and Politics. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp.34-90

Falla, Ricardo (l988) Struggle for Survival in the Mountains: Hunger and other Privations Inflicted on Internal Refugees from the Central Highlands. IN Harvest of Violence. The Maya Indians and the Guatemalan Crisis. R.M. Carmack, Ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press pp.235-55

What are the strengths and weaknesses of international and national efforts to eliminate foodwars?

First Paper Due: Thursday, October 27


November 1-3 Entitlement and Enfranchisement ("Food First") Perspectives

Case Studies in Food Poverty: Asia


Dreze and Sen, pp. 20-34;l66-203

Sen, Amartya (1981) Poverty and Famines. An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford: Clarendon, pp. l-8

Lappe, Frances and Joseph Collins (l978) Food First. NY: Ballantine, pp.l-96

Hartmann, Betsy and James Boyce (l983) A Quiet Violence: View From a Bangladesh Village. London: Zed Press, pp.73-121; 169-176 (reprint) For class discussion.


George, S. (l990) Ill Fares the Land. New York: Penguin. (especially pp. 221-39; 64-87)

What are the methods that different socioeconomic and occupational groups use to avert risk of, or adapt to, risk of entitlement failure?

Nov. 8-10 Case Studies in Food Poverty: Latin America


Lappe and Collins, pp.97ff.

Eber, C. and B. Rosenbaum (1993) "That We May Serve Your Hands and Feet": Women Weavers in Highland Chiapas Mexico. IN Crafts in the World Market: The Impact of Global Exchange on Middle American Artisans, J.Nash, ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp.155-79

Scrimshaw, M. and S. Cosminsky (1991) The Impact of Health on Women's Food Procurement Strategies on a Guatemalan Plantation. IN Diet and Domestic Life in Society. A. Sharman, J. Theophano, K. Curtis, and E. Messer, Eds. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, pp.61-90

Nov. 15-17 Hunger Interventions, Economic Development, and Food Poverty


The Bellagio Declaration. World Hunger Program, Brown University, Providence, RI

Reutlinger, S. and G. Hyden (l99l) Reaching the Urban Rural Poor: Suggestions for Implementing the Bellagio Declaration. World Hunger Program, Brown University, Providence, RI

International Conference on Nutrition l992 FAO/WHO. World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition (background documents are recommended readings)

Kottak, Conrad (l99l) When People Don't Come First: Some Sociological Lessons from Completed Projects, IN Putting People First. Sociological Variables in Rural Development, M.Cernea, Ed. pp.43l-464.


Biswas, Margaret (l985) Food Aid, Nutrition, and Development IN Nutrition and Development. M. Biswas and P. Pinstrup-Anderson, Eds.,pp.97-ll9

World Bank (l986) National Measures to Reduce Chronic Food Insecurity. IN Poverty and Hunger. Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries, pp.28-4l

Cornia, Giovanni A., Richard Jolly, and Frances Stewart (l987) Summary and Conclusions IN Adjustment with a Human Face, Oxford: Clarendon, pp.287-97

Nov. 22- Discussion: Food First; Successful programs to overcome food poverty.

Second Written Assignment Due: Tuesday, November 29.


Nov. 29- Child Vulnerability to Hunger


Berg, Alan (l973) The Nutrition Factor. Washington: Brookings (read entire book over the next three weeks)

Cassidy, Claire (l980) Benign Neglect and Toddler Malnutrition. IN Social and Biological Predictors of Nutritional Status, Physical Growth, and Neurological Development. L.S. Greene and F. Johnston, Eds. NY: Academic Press, pp. l09-39 (reprint)

UNICEF. (l99l) The State of the World's Children 1991 New York: Oxford University Press, pp.51-74


Cassidy, Claire (l982) Protein-Energy Malnutrition as a Culture-Bound Syndrome. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 6: 325-45

The Breast-Feeding versus Bottle-Feeding Controversy The Energy and Protein Controversy

Jonsson, U. and A. Zerfas (1994) After the World Summit for Children; Achieving the Nutrition Goals Through Naitonal Programs of Action. The Hunger Report: 1993, pp.87-101


Van Esterik, P. (l989) Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press

December 1- Female Vulnerability to Hunger


O'Laughlin, B. (l974) Mediation of Contradiction: Why Mbum Women Do Not Eat Chicken. IN Women, Culture, and Society. M. Rosaldo, L. Lamphere, Eds., Stanford University Press, pp. 30l-l8. (reprint)

Das Gupta, M. (l987) Selective Discrimination Against Female Children in Rural Punjab, India. Population and Development Review l3:77-100

Dec. 6- Food Habits, Nutritional Deficiency Diseases, and Social Behavior


Messer, Ellen (l98l) Hot-Cold Classification: Theoretical and Practical Implications of a Mexican Study. Social Science and Medicine l58:l33-45

Greene, Lawrence (l977) Hyperendemic Goiter, Cretinism, and Social Organization in Highland Ecuador. IN Malnutrition, Behavior, and Social Organization, L.Greene, Ed. NY: Academic, pp. 55-94

Underwood, B., K. West, and E. Messer (l99l) Elimination of Iodine Deficiency Disorders and Vitamin A Deficiencies as Public Health Problems. Papers from the 4th Annual World Hunger Program Briefing, April 5, l99l.


Dec. 8- Global Interdependencies and the End of Hunger


McLaren, D.S. (l978) Nutrition Planning Daydreams at the United Nations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 3l:l295-1299

Messer, E. (l994) The International Conference on Nutrition: Historical Perspectives and Prospects. The Hunger Report: 1993, pp.7l-86

Uvin, P. (l994) The State of World Hunger. The Hunger Report: 1993, pp.26-36


Barraclough, Solon (l99l) An End to Hunger?: Social Origins of Food Strategies