Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria

Overview


Why do famines occur and how have their effects changed through time? Why are those who produce food so often the casualties of famines? Looking at the food crisis that struck the West African Sahel during the 1970s, Michael J. Watts examines the relationships between famine, climate, and political economy.

Through a longue durée history and a detailed village study Watts argues that famines are socially produced and that the market is as fickle and incalculable as the weather....

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Overview


Why do famines occur and how have their effects changed through time? Why are those who produce food so often the casualties of famines? Looking at the food crisis that struck the West African Sahel during the 1970s, Michael J. Watts examines the relationships between famine, climate, and political economy.

Through a longue durée history and a detailed village study Watts argues that famines are socially produced and that the market is as fickle and incalculable as the weather. Droughts are natural occurrences, matters of climatic change, but famines expose the inner workings of society, politics, and markets. His analysis moves from household and individual farming practices in the face of climatic variability to the incorporation of African peasants into the global circuits of capitalism in the colonial and postcolonial periods.

Silent Violence powerfully combines a case study of food crises in Africa with an analysis of the way capitalism developed in northern Nigeria and how peasants struggle to maintain rural livelihoods. As the West African Sahel confronts another food crisis and continuing food insecurity for millions of peasants, Silent Violence speaks in a compelling way to contemporary agrarian dynamics, food provisioning systems, and the plight of the African poor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This book is simply a classic. If you want to understand the intellectual guts of political ecology, or the conceptual pulse of food crises, this is the place to go.”—Neil Smith, City University of New York

Silent Violence is truly the seminal work of political ecology— synthesizing political economy and environmental history—to which my own writing owes an enormous debt. A conceptual masterpiece, it also remains—tragically—an all-too-accurate account of Nigeria’s torments.”—Mike Davis, author of Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World

“A big book in every sense—historically grounded, geographically sensitive and extraordinarily humane. . . . In many ways it remains a model of intelligent and discerning scholarship: meticulously researched, painstakingly referenced, and beautifully written.”—Progress in Human Geography

“[An] important book.”—Amartya Sen, New York Times

“Looking at the food crisis that struck the West African Sahel in the 1970s, Michael J. Watts examines the relationships between famine, climate, and political economy. . . . As the West African Sahel confronts another food crisis and continuing food insecurity for millions of peasants, Silent Violence speaks in a compelling way to the contemporary agrarian dynamics, food provisioning systems, and the plight of the African poor.”—Bob Edmonds, McCormick Messenger

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Michael J. Watts is a professor and Class of 1963 Chair in the Geography and Development Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught for thirty-five years. His many books include Global Political Ecology, Reworking Modernity, and The Curse of the Black Gold.
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Table of Contents


Preface to the New Edition xiii

ERRATA xvii

Preface to the 1983 Edition xix
Acknowledgments xxv
Abbreviations and Conventions xxxi
Glossary xxxv
Bare Life and the Long Interregnum: Introduction to the New Edition xli

1. Introduction: The Political Economy of Food and Famine 1

Dimensions of the Current Food Crisis 5
Food Systems, Risk, and Famine 12
Peasants and the Development of Capitalism 19
The Study Area 25
Fact, Fiction, and Method 31

2. Hausaland and the Sokoto Caliphate in the Nineteenth Century 39

Hausaland, the Central Sudan, and the Sarauta System 41
Islamization and the Caliphal State 46
Caliphal Administration and Jihadi Ideology 49
The Emirates: Political and Social Structure 53
The Economic Structure of Society 59
The Labor Process and Material Life 60
The Social Relations of Production 67
Modes of Production and the Material Basis of the Caliphate 74
Summary 79

3. Food, Famine, and Climate in the Nineteenth Century 82

Nature and Society 84
The Environmental Context of Hausaland 89
Drought and Famine in the Central Sudan 94
A Hausa Famine Chronology, 1800–1900 100
Moral Versus Political Economy? 104
Famine Genesis and Dynamics 139

4. Capital, State, and Peasantry in Colonial Northern Nigeria 148

Foundations of Colonial Capitalism 153
Conclusion 182

5. Hunger, Risk, and Household Security 187

Hausa Agronomy and Household Production 190
Fulani Pastoral Economy, Terms of Trade, and Agricultural Productivity 206
The Sociology of the Household and the “Culture” of Reproduction 213
Grains Trade, Domestic Storage, and the Minesfield 222
Class Relations and Rural Differentiation 227
Merchant’s Capital and Simple Reproduction 240
State Crises and State Demands 255
Conclusion 265

6. Famine Over Hausaland, 1900–1960 272

1900–1918: Conquest, Incorporation, and Transition 274
1919–1939: Consolidation and the Depression Economy 299
1939–1960: The Wartime Economy and Its Aftermath 326
Conclusion 367

7. Climate, Famine, and Scarcity in the 970S 373

Agriculture, War, and Famine, 1960–1975 374
The Livestock Sector 384
The Relief Effort 389
Case Study: Kaita Village, Katsina 392
Seasonality and Social Reproduction in Hausaland 441
Famine, Social Differentiation, and Class Relations 448
Conclusion 461

8. Food, Agriculture, and the Oil Boom, 1970–1980 466

Economy, Society, and the Oil Boom 467
Oil, State, and the Regime of Capital Accumulation 471
Food, Agriculture, and the Popular Classes 482
The Agrarian Question and Rural Development 489
Agrarian Transformation and the Crises of the State 506
Conclusion 511

Appendix 515
Notes 521
Bibliography 585
Index 665

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