RSIS Luncheon Seminar by Dr John Jackson Ewing, Research Fellow, Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, RSIS
Food and Stability: Challenging Assumptions and Exploring Connections
Many developing communities around the world face pronounced food security challenges. Growing populations, high prices, urbanisation trends, decreasing yield improvements, and changing food preferences are just some of the dynamics that threaten the capacity of contemporary and future food systems to meet the needs of given populations. These realities have fueled speculation that instability and violence could be in the offing as a result, and a growing body of media and organisational reportage lists food deficits alongside climate change, environmental stresses, population pressures and other non-traditional security issues as potential sources of conflict. Despite such increased public attention, however, contemporary linkages between food and stability remain largely unclear. Temporal, spatial and otherwise contextual factors are often underrepresented in existing work and a sense of intuitiveness defines many of the espoused connections between food and security challenges. This paper attempts to further unpack potential connections between food and stability by addressing some of these perceived shortcomings. The paper begins by exploring several potential pathways by which food challenges could foment violent instability. These pathways are each multifaceted, but focus respectively upon the erosion of government legitimacy in the face of food systems mismanagement, the displacement and/or marginalisation of people as a result of food production efforts, and more apocalyptic scenarios involving absolute deficits of food. The second concluding segment of the paper argues for the primacy of context in evaluating potential food-stability connections, and focuses particularly on differences between urban and rural settings. Through this combined effort the paper seeks to extend existing work on food and stability while also presenting questions for future enquiry.
The RSIS Luncheon Seminar series is open only to RSIS staff and PhD candidates.