From Futures Markets to the Farm Gate

A synopsis of a recent article by Dr Hannah Bargawi (SOAS University of London) and Dr Susan Newman (UWE Bristol): From Futures Markets to the Farm Gate: A Study of Price Formation along Tanzania’s Coffee Commodity Chain.

Within the social sciences broadly, and within commodities-related research in particular, research has increasingly focused on prices – analysing and evaluating the formation of prices, the transmission of prices, and the impact of prices and price changes on different actors (from within mainstream economics, see for example Rapsomanikis et al 2006 or Çalişkan and Callon 2010 as an example of the research originating from within economic geography). However, such studies have tended to tackle their research questions in isolation, adopting a particular analytical framework, which has often resulted in important and relevant issues being ignored.

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Book Review: A History of Public Health

A book review by Matteo Pinna Pintor of ‘A History of Public Health‘ by George Rosen.

Ebola and Zika outbreaks in the tropics make the reissue of this classic of medical history a timely event. Written in the late 1950s by a pioneer of American health education, the volume is a retrospective tour de force which tracks the evolution of public health from classical antiquity to the welfare state, focusing largely on the West. A generous editorial apparatus helps contextualize it.
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Book Review: Farewell to the God of Plague

A book review by Matteo Pinna Pintor on ‘Farewell to the God of Plague: Chairman Mao’s Campaign to Deworm China‘ by Miriam Gross.

This book’s title refers to a poem written by Mao Zedong in 1958. The God of Plague is schistosomiasis, a tropical disease which, in 2013, affected almost 300 million people around the world. Schistosome worms alternate parasitism of humans and freshwater snails, with aquatic larval stages in-between. Untreated heavy infections cause fatigue, anemia, growth stunting, sometimes neurological disorders, and can be fatal. Negative impacts on the productivity of agricultural workers have been documented. An effective drug was introduced in the 1980s, but control remains challenging, requiring action at multiple points of the parasite’s lifecycle and touching on aspects of personal hygiene, sanitation and water supply. Throughout much of the 20th century treatment was less effective and many campaigns came to nothing. John Farley’s Bilharzia (Cambridge University Press, 1991), the only book-length investigation of these attempts, is an essay in the sociology of medical failure. The little optimism contained in that book was devoted to China. This is because China, which includes one of the largest endemic areas, is renowned for having successfully controlled schistosomiasis by means of a pioneering campaign in the 1960s and 1970s, characterized by draconian prevention measures enacted by the peasant masses exhorted by Mao. Thanks to Miriam Gross we now have a detailed reconstruction of this important episode in the history of public health, making a plausible case for correction of the abovementioned narrative. Continue reading

Sustainable Diets: a development challenge?

The term “Sustainable Diets” (SD) entered the public health lexicon in 1987, but its translation into reality is proving slow. In its most pared-down formulation, SD means good nutrition with low carbon emissions. In more complex forms, it means eating within environmental limits while eating well for health and in a manner appropriate to economic, social and cultural circumstances. Whichever version of SD is adopted, policy-makers have been surprisingly reluctant to translate the term into public advice. Tim Lang (Centre for Food Policy, City University London) explores the advantages and threats posed by this obvious and rational direction for public health nutrition and for food systems re-design. He asks specifically whether developing countries could and should adopt the pursuit of new national sustainable dietary guidelines and argues that the adoption of sustainable diets as an overarching population goal offers a combination of radical and reasonable drivers for development.

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Food: From Bread Riots to Obesity

Jane Harrigan, Professor of Economics at SOAS University of London and author of ‘The Political Economy of Arab Food Sovereignty‘, William Sitwell, author of ‘Eggs or Anarchy‘, and Bee Wilson, author of ‘First Bite‘ discussed: ‘Food – From Bread Riots to Obesity‘ on BBC4, 27 June 2016. Presenter Andrew Marr guides his listeners through the many links between food and politics through history; from World War II to the Arab Spring. The programme is recorded on the BBC4 website and worth a listen. Just follow the link.

Inequality and Complexity in Access to Food

FNHD at the DSA Annual Conferences 2016
On Wednesday 14th September 2016 during the Development Studies Association conference held at the University of Oxford, Dr. Deborah Johnston (SOAS, University of London), in collaboration with Nazia Mintz-Habib (University of Cambridge) and Sam Mardell (London International Development Centre) organised a panel on “Inequality and complexity in access to food“. The variety of ways that food can be acquired have been studied by a range of disciplines. This panel has contributed to elucidate the various dynamics of food access from an intra-household to national level from a political-economy perspective. The FNHD cluster members have presented the following papers:

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