New project studies remembrance and justice after famines


Hunger is on the rise globally. And although mass-starvation has killed staggering numbers of people, it’s usually not conceptualized as mass-violence. This is one of the issues that will be explored in the new project Famines as Mass Atrocities: Reconsidering Violence, Memory and Justice in Relation to Hunger.

Camilla Orjuela and Swati Parashar, associate professors at the School of Global Studies, lead the project, which was recently granted SEK 6 million from the Swedish Research Council. The project aims to analyse the attempts and possibilities to pursue remembrance and justice after famines.

When it comes to genocides, war and terrorism, there are international and national norms and processes in place to bring those responsible to justice, to seek the truth about what happened and to remember the victims. Famine, on the other hand, is often regarded as something that is due to unfortunate circumstances such as bad weather. But research on how famine disasters appear, explicitly show that starvation is almost always caused by conscious actions – or a lack of action.

“Bringing attention to the structural violence of famines, and gaining a systematic understanding of the opportunities and obstacles to bring those responsible to justice and commemorate victims will contribute to the important endeavor of preventing famines in the future,” says Camilla Orjuela and Swati Parashar.

In the first phase of the project, the researchers will study under what conditions, how and by whom famines are understood, remembered and dealt with as mass-atrocities. This will be done through a historical study of six famines in Africa, Asia and Europe. The researchers will then proceed to analyze contemporary initiatives to push for remembrance and justice for hunger deaths, for instance by intergovernmental organisations, civil society groups, legal professionals, victim groups and states.

“I have spent a lot of time studying war, genocide and other types of large-scale violence, and have been concerned about the fact that other types of severe suffering, like hunger, receive much less attention, not only in the media and by policy makers, but also by academics (including peace researchers). So I have wanted to draw attention to these issues, and also look into how discourses and practices of transitional justice and memorialization can be applied on cases of famine,” says Camilla Orjuela.

The project will run from 2019 to 2022.

More information

Camilla Orjuela, Professor in Peace and Development Research at the School of Global Studies

Swati Parashar, Associate Professor in Peace and Development Research at the School of Global Studies