Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Famine and Democracy in Malawi

26 November 2008 | 4:00pm - 5:00pm | Seminar

Environment Bldg, Lecture Theatre E (ground fl)

Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) Seminar Series

Speaker: Dr David Hall-Matthews


Amartya Sen declared in 1999 that famines cannot occur in fully functioning democracies with an active free press. At that time, there had never been in a famine in such a context but, in 2001-03, Malawi - which had become a democracy in 1994 after thirty years of famine-free dictatorship - suffered a severe food crisis. The government's response was weak, slow and undermined by corruption at the highest level, leading to excess mortality. Yet the ruling party was re-elected in 2004. This paper presents findings from fieldwork during the relief effort and election campaign in order to explore the implications for Sen's theory, arguing that it is tautologous and potentially dangerously misleading as a policy prescription.

Dr David Hall-Matthews is a Senior Lecturer in International Development in POLIS. Originally an historian, he wrote extensively on famine causation and response in colonial India, before researching contemporary food security. He has also written about trade, globalisation and corruption and is currently working on a contemporary history of South Asia.

Location Details

The Environment Building is located adjacent to the Great Hall on campus.

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