Food Riots in Bangladesh? Garments Worker Protests and Globalized Subsistence Crises
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This paper explores the politics of provisions in Bangladesh through an analysis of the so-called ‘food riots’ of 2008. On the face of it, poor, malnourished, mal-governed Bangladesh was a clear candidate for food riots during the global food crisis, which the international media duly reported in April 2008. And there were indeed subsistence-related struggles, which resonated loudly with the prevailing moral economy. But in intent, form, and repertoire, these struggles rarely targeted failures of food marketing systems or demanded action by public authorities, and in no respects resembled what social history has taught us to think of as ‘food riots’. Although triggered in part by food price rises, these protests reflected a strong sense of subsistence crisis among the protesting garments workers, and were part of a longer series of struggles over wages, by this emergent, globalized precariat. This article originally appeared in Naomi Hossain, Patta Scott-Villiers, eds., Food Riots, Food Rights and the Politics of Provisions (New York: Routledge, 2017). It is republished in Zapruder World with the permission of the authors and the publisher, Routledge.