Modern Hungers: A Selected Bibliography

October 28th, 2017

During World War I and II, modern states for the first time experimented with feeding--and starving--entire populations. Within the new globalizing economy, food became intimately intertwined with waging war, and starvation claimed more lives than any other weapon. As Alice Weinreb shows in Modern Hungers, nowhere was this new reality more significant than in Germany, which struggled through food blockades, agricultural crises, economic depressions, and wartime destruction and occupation at the same time that it asserted itself as a military, cultural, and economic powerhouse of Europe. The end of armed conflict in 1945 did not mean the end of these military strategies involving food. Fears of hunger and fantasies of abundance were instead reframed within a new Cold War world. During the postwar decades, Europeans lived longer, possessed more goods, and were healthier than ever before. This shift was signaled most clearly by the disappearance of famine from the continent. So powerful was the experience of post-1945 abundance that it is hard today to imagine a time when the specter of hunger haunted Europe, demographers feared that malnutrition would mean the end of whole nations, and the primary targets for American food aid were Belgium and Germany rather than Africa. Yet under both capitalism and communism, economic growth as well as social and political priorities proved inseparable from the modern food system. Drawing on sources ranging from military records to cookbooks to economic and nutritional studies from a multitude of archives, Modern Hungers reveals similarities and striking ruptures in popular experience and state policy relating to the industrial food economy. In so doing, it offers historical perspective on contemporary concerns ranging from humanitarian food aid to the gender-wage gap to the obesity epidemic. Alice Weinreb will discuss Modern Hungers on Saturday 11/4, 3pm at the Co-op.

Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, by Sidney Mintz - Still I think the best analysis of the ways in which food production and consumption shape categories of race, class, and gender during the rise of the modern industrial state.
heroes like us, by thomas bruessig - A very funny East German novel about the fall of the Berlin Wall, focusing on memory, sexuality, and the body in provocative ways.
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, by Pierre Bourdieu - The standard and still inspiring work on social identity and (food) consumption.
Whose Hunger? Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid, by Jenny Edkins - This brilliant book first made me think analytically about hunger as a political category with profound implications for human lives around the world.
Silent Violence: Food, Famine and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria, by Michael Watts - Beautifully written and inspiring study of the relationship between capitalism and modern famines.
Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism, by Julie Guthman - An important analysis of the current "obesity epidemic" in relationship to the rise of global capitalism.
How German Is She?: Postwar West German Reconstruction and the Consuming Woman, by Erica Carter - Illustrates the gendering of modern economic system, specifically the category of the consumer, in postwar Germany.

About Alice Weinreb: Alice Weinreb (PhD, University of Michigan, 2009; M.A., Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, 2003; B.A., Columbia University, 1999) is Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. She has published articles on food and hunger in Nazi and Postwar Germany in the Zeitschrift für Körpergeschichte, Central European History, and German Studies Review. Her first book, Modern Hungers: Food and Power in Twentieth Century Germany, came out with Oxford University Press in June 2017. She is currently working on a new project on the emergence of a specifically German conception of a clean and healthy environment. 
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