Telling the hunger of ‘distant’ others
in The politics of hunger
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Hunger was not just understood directly but something mobilised and mediated through the plight of distant others. In particular, the devastating famine of 1840s Ireland was critical in shaping political languages of hunger in the Empire as a whole as well as amongst the people of Britain. This chapter does not explore the central governmental response to these famines – though this provides a critical context – but instead examines popular responses to the hunger of distant others in the 1840s. In so doing, chapter six examines both the discourses of response (and how these helped to shape understandings of hunger) as well as schemes to relieve famine and the distant hungry. It is argued that against the ideologically driven official governmental response to these different famines, those who were only one act of misfortune away from being incarcerated in the workhouse and only one or two generations away from experiencing absolute hunger were quick to respond, setting up collections and relief schemes. It acknowledges that the popular politics of hunger were not bound by the body or borders but were rooted in the uneven contours of solidarity and reciprocity.

The politics of hunger

Protest, poverty and policy in England, c. 1750–c. 1850


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