mardi 28 mai 2024

Produits alimentaires et guerre

Provisioning Conflicts: Food Commodities & War 

Call for papers

Following on from the 2022 and 2023 meetings, which focused on domesticated and wild animals respectively, the British Academy ‘Commodities of Empire’ Academy Research Project invites paper proposals for an international, two-day workshop on the theme of food commodities and war, hosted at the University of Birmingham (UK) on 12-13 September, 2024. The deadline for submitting a paper abstract is 3 June 2024.


As the present conjuncture makes all too clear, warfare has long been entangled with food and its commodification. Both as a stake in conflicts and as an instrument of them, food commodification has changed over time in part through varied and highly charged relationships to warfare, including irregular warfare and guerrilla activity. This workshop will focus on the study of food and war in order to examine the mutually constitutive operation of food systems and political-military conflicts – and to bring historians and scholars in cognate disciplines into closer conversation.

Researchers working with a wide range of methods have developed sub-fields of research on the interrelationship of food and war and we aim to build on this broad range, with an open chronological and geographical scope, while maintaining our core focus on commodities and imperial formations.

Economic historians of warfare, for example, have long analysed the role of shifting agricultural production systems in propelling geopolitical competition and military strategy, while international and legal historians have examined shifting norms and practices of food blockades and sanctions. Scholars of humanitarian activity, meanwhile, have produced rich ethnographies of the ethical matrices of food relief and historical studies of the operation of humanitarian reason or the lived experience of humanitarian predicaments. Global historians, for their part, have lately shown how warfare redefined notions of ‘raw materials’ and the mobilization of ‘natural resources’, durably reshaping landscapes and driving environmental change, for example by catalysing the rise of new technologies, input agriculture, and plantation monoculture. Finally, anthropologists and historians of ‘development’ have traced the impact of warfare on discourses, networks and practices of social transformation, increasingly paying attention to local social and cultural histories and to the operation of hierarchies of race, gender and class, among other categories, in shaping the interaction of food systems with warfare.

This workshop will ask how historians and scholars in cognate disciplines should best work in dialogue to study how warfare shaped the production, processing, trading, transport, distribution, consumption and destruction of food commodities, even as the dynamics of conflict were themselves altered by the evolving characteristics of food systems. We are particularly interested in multi-scale and multi-local projects that work imaginatively with primary sources and in collaborative research strategies that seek to re-conceptualise the relationship of food commodification to systems of value and to local or regional cultures. We place emphasis on the experiences of peoples subjected to different imperial hegemonies and on networks of circulation within, between and beyond specific empires. We are particularly attentive to local processes originating in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America and to the impact of agents in the periphery on the establishment and development of commodity networks: as instigators and promoters; through their social, cultural and technological resistance; or through the production of anti-commodities. Finally, with a view to building on the work of our late colleague, Dr Kaori O’Connor, to whom a panel will be dedicated, we are interested in papers that explore the cultural biographies of food in wartime, in order to tease out multiple cultural identities and social changes.

Potential paper topics may relate to:
  • Food systems’ and food commodities’ reconfigured development or intensified exploitation during wartime, such as emergent systems of abstraction and standardization (e.g. food typologies, nutritional regulation, forms of agricultural and health knowledge, state-building via bio-politics) or emergent infrastructural arrangements (e.g. disease prevention, food transport, processing and storage, stock-piling, data/statistical/information systems).
  • The contested and plural role of economic, scientific, and legal concepts in the wartime politics of famine and hunger (e.g. markets and black markets; the politics of pricing and moral economies; surplus and scarcity construction in relation to food commodities).
  • Wartime reconfigurations of spatial arrangements characteristic of food commodification & wartime impacts on local environmental conditions and food systems (e.g. militarized extraction, production and processing, designation of home and fighting ‘fronts’, altered domestic and commercial spaces, the dynamics of blockades and autarkic economic sovereignties, “Commodity Wars” between neighbouring countries as a form of diplomatic conflict and/or internal colonialism).
  • Wartime reconfigurations of temporal frameworks characteristic of food commodification (e.g. seeding/fertilizing/disease/harvesting cycles; insurance/futures cycles; the impact of emergency mentalities and time horizons; the wartime uses of cornucopian, orientalist or declinist imaginaries; armistice periods and post-war reconstructions of food commodity systems; post-war memories and narratives of food commodities in wartime; reparations in connection with food commodities and/or the repurposing of wartime food systems for peacetime & future conflicts).
  • Racial capitalism and food commodities in wartime: expropriation and forced labour in food commodity systems, wartime approaches to financialization and the adaptation of debt and credit circuits or risk and insurance systems, the role of agricultural banks and futures contracts, wartime trading oligopolies and monopolies.
  • Input agriculture and wartime: the wartime politics of fertilizer and pesticide, seed and plant engineering, and plantation monoculture.
  • Environmental and climate histories/social practices of food commodification in wartime (e.g. the politics of temperature, irrigation and water supply, rainfall and flooding as it relates to food commodities in wartime).
  • Forms of resistance, adaptive or hybrid practice including the role of Indigenous knowledges and material cultures in the wartime politics of food commodification.
  • Systems of political obligation and humanitarian ethics in wartime as they shifted in relation to food commodities.
  • Water and war: potable water politics; irrigation infrastructure; etc.

We are interested in cases from all geographical regions, and in approaches from various disciplines, particularly history and cognate disciplines including anthropology, the environmental sciences, sociology and other scholars working on the history of food commodification in contexts of war.

This two-day workshop will be held at the University of Birmingham on 12-13 September 2024 and is part of the Commodities of Empire British Academy Research Project. Following the long-standing practice of Commodities of Empire workshops, papers will be grouped in thematic panels, pre-circulated to all workshop participants, and panel discussions will be opened by a chair or discussant. Paper-givers will then have the possibility to reply succinctly, and this will be followed by open discussion. Papers presented at the workshop may be considered for publication in the Commodities of Empire Working Papers series:

We strongly encourage graduate students and other early career scholars to propose papers.

Some funding is available to cover travel and accommodation expenses for early career scholars, and particularly for scholars coming from the Global South. We envisage the possibility of holding at least one panel in hybrid format to enable remote participation by speakers who may not be able to travel due to caring responsibilities, health, climate or financial considerations.

Please e-mail expressions of interest, with a title and an abstract of no more than 300 words, by 3 June 2024 to Dr Simon Jackson, at

We will notify authors about the acceptance of their papers by the end of June. They will then be asked to submit a draft paper of approx. 4,000-5,000 words (not counting footnotes and bibliography) 2 weeks prior to the workshop.

Contact Information

Lead organizer: Dr Simon Jackson (

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