Advanced Seminar on Special Topics in World Hunger: Human Rights to Food and Freedom from Hunger

This seminar will analyze human rights to food from historical, legal, political-economic, and cultural perspectives. Drawing on international, United States, and developing nations’ legal and food policies, we will be examining the institutions and values that promote or interfere with people’s acquiring sufficient food; and the ways in which international, national, and local efforts fit together to promote (or limit) freedom from hunger.

The course will begin by reviewing the nature and extent of world hunger problems (ecology and politics of food shortage, political-economic sources of insufficient entitlement to food, sociocultural or health reasons for food deprivation) and the ways in which rights to food are supposed to be guaranteed by United Nations declarations, covenants, and agencies. We will then proceed to analyze how the political economics of producing and distributing food, and the sociocultural issues of defining who has membership in the community and what constitutes food, complicate the basic rights questions. In this analytical process, we will be seeking answers to two questions, both broadly comparative: (1) how are human rights to food defined and implemented in different national legal, moral, and cultural traditions(what these are, who is included in the human group enjoying rights, and who enforces rights in case of conflicts?) (2) Are there ways in which national efforts to meet demands for human rights to food can build on, or not interfere with, local community efforts at food security?

Near the beginning of the term, each student will select one nation as a focus (case study) for more extensive research on constitutional rights to food, food and nutrition-related policies, and other mechanisms for guaranteeing or interfering with food rights. This work will provide the basis for an oral class presentation and written paper/annotated bibliography on rights to food in that nation. In addition, each student will participate in a public service activity in the greater Providence area, which will bring him/her personally in contact with the hungry. Reflections on this service activity, in conjunction with class readings on rights to food in the United States, will provide the basis for a short paper on rights to food in the United States. It will also be useful for comparative perspectives on rights to food in the U.S. and in the developing world.

Formal class evaluation will be based on:

1.Class participation: This course will be run mainly on a seminar format, with students responsible for discussing weekly class assignments.

2.Rights to Food in the U.S.: A short paper summarizing rights to food in the U.S., along with a diary of experiences in hunger-related public service activity, due at mid-term, March 20

3.An oral and written presentation on rights to food in one (non-U.S.) nation.

4. A short (op-ed length) written piece on U.S. international and domestic rights to food policy, that reflects your knowledge of the possibilities, in historical and international, as well as personal experiential, terms. The op-ed will be drafted early in the term, and then revised.

Assignments 2 and 4 will each count for 25% of the final grade. Assignment 3 counts for 50%.

Each session will have required readings that will be the basis for class discussions. There will also be suggested readings for many topics. These are guides to further exploration of particular subject areas for your interest.

There are two required texts that can be purchased at the Brown University Bookstore:
1. Alston, Philip and Katarine Tomasevski, Eds. 1984. The Right to Food. Boston: M. Nijhoff [Kluwer Academic] (This book has just gone out of print, but the Bookstore is searching for used copies.)
2. Eide, Asbjom, ed. 1984. Food as a Human , Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

There are also three recommended texts:
1. Minear, L. 1990 Humanitarianism Under Siege: A Critical Review of Operation Lifeline Sudan. Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press.
2. Lemoux, P. 1982 Cry of the People. Baltimore: Penguin
3. Frankie, R. and B. Chasin 1989 Kerala: Radical Reform in an Indian State. San Francisco: Institute for Food Policy and Development.

In addition, you should purchase The Hunger Report 1993(Brown University World Hunger Program) at the World Hunger Program, 130 Hope Street.



30 January Introduction: What are Rights to Food? (What are rights? What is food? Who is human? How do notions of local or household rights and obligations link up with national and international legislation?)

Shue, H. The Interdependence of Duties. IN Alston and Tomasevski, pp.83-110

George, S. 1990 The Right to Food and the Politics of Hunger. IN III Fares the Land, pp.221-39, Baltimore: Penguin

Weissbrodt, D. 1988 Human Rights: An Historical Perspective. IN Human Rights, P. Davies, Ed. NY.

6 FebruaryHuman Rights to Food: Historical and International Legal Perspectives.

(What is the legal framework for demanding rights to food? What are supposed to be the responsibilities of the national and international communities in monitoring human rights to food, and responding to abuses? What is the relationship between human rights to food and development; individual rights and peoples’ rights?)

Eide et al. The Food Problematique (pp.v-xi)

Alston, P. International Law and the Human Right to Food. IN Alston and Tomasevski, pp.9-68

Zalaquett, J. The Relationship between Development and Human Rights., IN Eide, pp. 141-51

Eide, A. The International Human Rights System. IN Eide, pp. 152-61.

Howard, R. The Full Belly Thesis: Should Economic Rights Take Priority Over Civil and Political Rights? Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa. Human Rights Quarterly 5:467-90

Various authors, op eds (for discussion)

Howard, R. 1990 Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, pp.60-90

Alston, P. International Law and the Right to Food. IN Eide, pp.162-74

Class discussion: crafting advocacy for human rights to food through the media.

13 February Human Rights to Food: Political-Economic Perspectives. (What are relationships between entitlement, enfranchisement, and access to food? What are the roles of governments, transnational corporations, inter-governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations in assuring or denying food rights over the long or short term?)

Spitz, P. The Right to Food for Peoples and For the People: A Historical Perspective. IN Alston and Tomasevski, pp.169-86

Marchione, T. Approaches to the Hunger Problem: A Critical Overview IN Eide, pp.117-38

Sen, A. The Right Not to be Hungry. IN Alston and Tomasevski, pp.69-81

Omawale Note on the Concept of Entitlement: A Bridge Between the Structural and the Human Rights Approach to Understanding Food in Development. IN Eide, pp.260-64

Jonsson, U. The Socioeconomic Causes of Hunger. IN Eide, pp. 473-82

Umozurike, U.0. 1985. Freedom from Hunger: A Third World View. Iowa Law Review 70:1329-37

Alston, P.The IMF and the Right to Food. Howard Law Journal 30:473-82

Rupesinghe, K. Export Orientation and the Right to Food: The Case of Sri Lanka’s Agricultural Promotion Zone. IN Eide, pp.37-53

Morgenthau, R.S. 1979 Strangers, Nationals, and Multinationals in Contemporary Africa. IN Strangers in African Societies. W.A. Shack and E. Skinner, Eds., pp.105-20. Berkeley: University of California Press.

George, S. 1990 Overcoming Hunger: Strengthen the Weak, Weaken the Strong. IN III Fares the Land, pp.3-18

Class discussion: Human rights to food: models of implementation

Assignment: draft an op-ed on some aspect of human rights to food–no class during the long president’s weekend!

27-Feb.Human Rights to Food: Cultural Perspectives on the History of Hunger (Who is defined as a human being and social person, and thereby guaranteed rights by the rights of the community? What are the rights to food of minorities or strangers? women, children, or the elderly? What constitutes adequate food? hunger?)

Doughty, P. 1988 Crossroads for Anthropology: Human Rights in Latin America. IN Human Rights and Anthropology. T. Downing and L. Kushner, Eds. pp.43-71. Cambridge, MA: Cultural Survival

Colson, E. 1970 The Assimilation of Aliens Among Zambian Tonga. IN From Tribe to Nation. Studies in Incorporative Processes. R. Cohen and J. Middleton, Eds., pp 35-54. Scranton, PA: Chandler Publishing Co.

Messer, E. 1984 Anthropological Perspectives on Diet. Annual Reviews in Anthropology 13: 205-50 (also, WHP Reprint)

Messer, E. 1989 “Small but Healthy?”: Some Cultural Perspectives. Human Organization 48: 39-52 (also, WHP Reprint)

Guldemund, R. Right to Food Conference. A Synthesis of the Discussion. IN Alston and Tomasevski, pp. 215-21

Tomasevski, K. Human Rights Indicators: The Right to Food as Test Case. IN Alston and Tomasevski, pp. 135-67

Cassidy, Claire (1980) Benign Neglect and Toddler Malnutrition. IN. Social and Biological Predictors of Nutritional Status,. Physical, Growth, and Neurological Development. L.S. Greene and F. Johnston, Eds. NY: Academic Press, pp. 109-39 (reprint)

Cassidy, Claire (1982) Protein-Energy Malnutrition as a Culture-Bound Syndrome. Culture. Medicine, and Psvchiatry 6: 325-45

Cassesse, A. (1990) A Contribution by the West to the Struggle Against Hunger: the Nestle Affair. IN Human Rights in a Changing World. pp.138-52, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

Das Gupta, M. (1987) Selective Discrimination Against Female Children in Rural Punjab, India. Population and Development Review 13:77-100

Rouner, L.S. 1988 Introduction IN Human Rights and the World’s Religions pp.1-14

Shack, W.A. and E.P. Skinner, Eds. Introduction IN Strangers in African Societies., pp.1-17, and other essays.

Fanon, Franz. The Wretched of the Earth.

Lernoux, P. 1982 Repression–the Recognition of Human Rights. pp. 15-59 IN The Cry of the People Penguin

Class discussion: who is human and who is hungry?

6-13 March – Rights to Freedom from Hunger in the U.S.: International and Domestic Perspectives (Are the hunger standards the same in the U.S. as in the rest of the world? What are the national, state, and community legal protections against hunger in the U.S.? What opportunities are there for working against hunger in the greater Providence area? What is the significance of US foreign policy on global hunger and human rights to food? How does the US legislative process on rights to food, orchestrated by the Congressional Select Committee on Hunger, work?)

Brown, Larry (1987) Hunger in America. Scientific American (February 1987): 36-41

Bryant, C.A., A. Courtney, B. Markesbery, and K. DeWalt, 1985. U.S. Federal Food Programs. pp.189-94 in The Cultural Feast. NY: West Publishing Company. (update will be discussed in class)

Hinton, A.W., J. Heimindinger, and S. Foerster 1990 Position of the American Dietetic Association: Domestic hunger and inadequate access to food. American Dietetic Association (ADA) Reports 90,10: 1437-1441.

Ellis, S.J. and K.H. Noyes 1990 By the People. A History of Americans as Volunteers. Revised Edition. pp. 295-98; 316-24; 335-36 San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Publishers

Alston, P. 1990 US Ratification of the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. American Journal of International Law 84:365-93 (class discussion will also consider US participation in World Summit on Children, Women’s Rights and Rights of the Child legislation)

Hellman, H. 1987 The Right to Food: The Domestic Mechanism for Food Sharing and Stryker, D. U.S., Food Aid Legislation: Its Perspective, the American Farmer or Hungry People, and its Structure, Purposes, and Conclusions. IN The Legal Faces of the Hunger Problem, symposium held at Howard University School of Law on 17-18 October, 1986.]Howard Law Journal 30,2: 297-309 [Note: you might want to look at the other essays in this volume.]

Walczak, J.R. 1981 New Directions in US Food Aid: Human Rights and Economic Development. IN Global Human Rights: Public Policy Comparative Measures, and NGO Strategies , V.P. Nanda, J.R. Scarritt, and G.W. Shepherd, Eds. Boulder, CO: Westview

Welch, S. and D. Forsythe 1985 Foreign Policy Attitudes of American Human Rights Supporters. Human Rights Quarterly 5:491-509 (update will be discussed in class)

Class discussion: The Medford Declaration and U.S. legislation on Freedom From Want (drafts)

20 March – Rights to Food in War and Refugee Zones (What are the strengths and weaknesses of international efforts to eliminate foodwars and provide for refugees?)

Messer, E. FoodWars: The Use of Hunger as a Weapon. IN The Hunger Report: 1990, pp.27-35

Haffell-Bond, B.E. 1986 Imposing Aid: Emergency Assistance to Refugees. NY: Oxford, pp.202-06; 234-49; 250-82

Bread for the World (1992) Hunger 1993. Uprooted People Third Annual Report on the State of World Hunger. Washington DC: Institute on Hunger and Development.

Class discussion: The human dimensions of emergency feeding: perspectives of providers and recipients

3 April – Food Shortage, Warfare, and Human Rights: Case Study of the Sudan, 1983-91. (Guest speaker)

Colson, Elizabeth (1979) In Good Years and Bad: Food Strategies in Self-Reliant Societies. Journal of Anthropological Research 35:18-29

Curtis, Donald, Michael Hubbard, and Andrew Shepherd (1988) Famine and the National and International Economy. Preventing Famine, NY:

Routledge, pp. 11-27 (reprint)
Sukkary-Stolba, S. 1989. Indigenous Institutions and Adaptation to Famine: Case Study of the Western Sudan. IN African Food Systems in Crisis Part 1: Microperspectives. R. Huss-Ashmore adn S. Katz, Eds. pp.281-94. New York: Gordon and Breach.

O’Brien, J. and E. Gruenbaum, 1992 A Social History of Food, Famine, and Gender in Twentieth Centruy Sudan. IN African Food Systems in Crisis. Part Three. R.E. Downs, D.O. Kerner, and S.P. Reyna, Eds. New York: Gordon and Breach.

Minear, L. 1990 Humanitarianism Under-Siege. A Critical Review of Operation Lifeline Sudan. Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press.

Ahmed An-Na’im, Abdullahi and F. Deng, eds. 1990 Human Rights in Africa. Cross-cultural Perspectives. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution. (see especially essays by Deng on “A Cultural Approach to Human Rights Among the Dinka” and Mayer, A.E. “Current Muslim Thinking on Human Rights”)

Class Discussion: New Humanitarian Initiatives

10 April – Food Poverty and Human Rights in Central America: A Latin American Case Study. (How do rights to land and rights to development articulate with rights to freedom from hunger? What have been the roles of community, NGO, and religious organizations in overcoming hunger?) [Documents on US interventions in Nicaragua and El Salvador will be discussed in class]

Crahan, M.E. 1982. Human Rights and Basic Needs in the Americas. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press (skim)

Lernoux, P. 1982. Cry of the People. (skim)

Class Discussion: Indigenous Rights and Food Rights in Latin America

17 April – Food Deprivation and the Rights of Women and Children in South Asia.

Franke, R. and B. Chasin. 1989 Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State. Food First Development Report No.6 San Francisco: The Institute for Food and Development Policy.

Class Discussion: Local and Scientific Perspectives on Discrimination by Age and Gender in India and Bangladesh

24 April-8 May – Student Reports on Case Studies


Towards Realization of the Rights to Food and Freedom From Hunger

Alston, P. and A. Eide. Advancing the Right to Food in International Law IN Eide, pp.249-59

Advancing the Right to Food in International Food and Nutrition Development Strategies, IN Eide, pp. 265-86

Eide et al. Toward Realization of the Right To Food IN Eide, pp. 287-89

Messer, E. and G. Hyden (draft manuscript) The Human Right to Food: Religious Promise and Practice (Introduction and Conclusions) On reserve; not in packet.

School: Brown University
Professor: E. Messer
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