So Many Hungers

The idea of Nature contains, though often unnoticed, an extraordinary amount of human history.
—Raymond Williams, “Ideas of Nature” (1980) 

Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, in essence the same as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same as the blockades and the reduction of countries to famine, the same as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs.
—Martin Heidegger, “Das Gestell” (1949)

It is believed the spotted hyenas of Harar came to roam the city during the Ethiopian famine of 1888, surviving on organic refuse and human remains.1 Traveling through Ireland preceding the Great Hunger of 1845–52, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote to his father of decimated fields and a traumatized country: “It is a frightening thing, I assure you, to see a whole population reduced to fasting like Trappists, and not being sure of surviving to the next harvest.”2 The economist Amartya Sen avers that “no famine has taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy,” and famine has been a motif in the spread of empire and repressive ideological powers from Egypt to China and Russia, Ethiopia to India—even the dead are not safe from its mass sweep.3 

A politics of hegemony has remained directly proportional to the conditions leading to famine. In the example of the Irish countryside administered by Charles Trevelyan—who had earlier served in the East India Company and held appointments in the Bengal Civil Service before returning to England—the reorganization of agricultural terrains, low wages, and slow relief efforts led to the loss of over a million lives. Let us contrast two statements made across the distance of a century: in 1861, the Young Ireland leader John Mitchel released the accusation that “the Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight but the English created the Famine”; in May 1997, as one among several routine exercises by which the imperial state attempts to preserve its moral character, British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued an official apology for the Great Famine.4 The complexity of famine is most often addressed retroactively, and yet hindsight has historically failed to comprehend the wrongs of starvation. 

Hunger is a strategic figure in the core failures of state polity; it is the cavernous weakening of a body politic that transfigures the nation into a bare-boned creature. In this cyclical event that has recurred throughout human history, inequalities abound in the sinister rhetoric of scarcity, while distress migrations from village to city, which fundamentally alter demographic composition and land relations, are tantamount to battle scenes. The famished are the twice oppressed—caught in a cruel cycle in which ruling matrices further imbalance purchasing power in favor of the privileged classes. 

A cruel facet of these scenarios is that the aristocratic elite, who pose the least threat to status quo relations within a ruling empire, are kept relatively safe from hunger, while the laboring class which dissents is crushed by it. Under Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorial rule in Ethiopia in the 1980s, for instance, the Derg junta relocated several thousand people from the northern to the southern provinces of the famine-affected nation.5 The claim was that this relocation would protect them from food deficiency, and yet the real intent was to uproot “counter-revolutionaries” by disempowering rebel-held pockets in the country. 

The Bengal Famine of 1943–44, in which millions died in the chaos following the invasion of Burma by the Japanese, has remained a hidden genocide until recent years. The disaster was structured through British colonial governance during the years of World War II—when the call for freedom rose ever louder across the Indian subcontinent. India was the overshadowed colonized subject of a wartime island proclaiming parliamentary democratic ideals. Yet the core spirit of democratic rule is placed under threat when the demos endures conditions of extreme hostility to basic survival, such as war, epidemic, and the mass starvation that arises from famine. 

Here it is critical to grasp Sen’s analysis of famine as a function of repression. Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there not being enough food to eat.6 It manifests through the structure of ownership and entitlement relations determining the question of legitimate access, material sovereignty, and social protection. The Bengal Famine was not simply a climactic accident but rather a civilizational episode at the crossroads of anticolonial resistance and international warfare—which should be read as a profound social failure and an illegitimate cost of war for the affected millions. There are reports of people perishing in front of well-stocked food shops protected by the state, of city dwellers, who had access to scarce rations, hoarding food as their lives found greater value in the war narrative, and of impoverished victims being refused admittance to hospitals, instead dying of an empty stomach upon monsoon-drenched pavements because regulations reserved treatment for those suffering identifiable diseases.7 

Zainul Abedin, Famine Sketch (1943), ink on paper, 65.6 × 42.5 cm

Wars Fought Elsewhere, the Killing Fields at Home

Winston Churchill stated, “No greater portion of the world population was so effectively protected from the horrors and perils of the World War as were the peoples of Hindustan. They were carried through the struggle on the shoulders of our small island.”8 With this statement he rendered the Bengal Famine a blind spot in the record of colonial modernity. When pressed by Indian national leaders about the famine’s grave extent, who pleaded for government action to replenish food resources, the British Prime Minister retorted, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

Churchill’s desire was to restructure the British Raj such that it fortified British power in a postwar global order. Through machinations of the war alliance, his government continued to plunder the colony’s economic wealth and defense resources: in June 1945, British debt to India stood at £1,292,000.9 As the imperial army swelled with Indian troops, numbering around 131,000 when Britain entered the war against Germany in 1939, freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose demanded an ultimatum for complete liberation while urging the community at home to wrestle free of the alien grasp at all costs.10 Meanwhile, hordes of British servicemen came to quell growing dissent, conduct military training, and maintain internal security. The Indian National Congress issued a statement elucidating its position: “If the war is to defend the status-quo, imperialist possessions, colonies and vested interests and privilege, India can have nothing to do with it. If, however, the issue is democracy and a world order based on democracy, then India is intensely interested in it.”11 

It was amidst this perplexing scenario that an unfree India was compelled to aid the colonizer through the war effort spreading from the Middle East to Southeast Asia while simultaneously fighting savage hunger on home soil, as grain was routinely shipped out along with weaponry from Calcutta and timber, steel, railway carriages, and cement from other industrialized towns. Bombay’s textile mills, for example, produced the camouflage uniforms and parachutes sent to troops on duty.12 

Zainul Abedin, Famine Sketch (1943), ink on paper, 43 × 56.5 cm

When Japanese forces invaded Burma at the eastern frontier in 1942, the country’s military might was tested once again and heavy air raids unleashed. Refugees from Burma and retreating army contingents began crisscrossing Bengal. A cyclone and tidal wave competed with air raids in devastating the countryside.13 Fear gripped the people of Calcutta and rural townships, who became convinced that liberation could not succeed in these conditions and that a new era of atrocity was approaching from the neighboring battlegrounds. Hoarding of grain grew acute, and the price of basic goods escalated. While armored Indian divisions fought around the Mediterranean, the subcontinent remained exposed. Despite General Archibald Wavell’s request to the War Cabinet for artillery, armored tanks, and fighter aircrafts at Indian military bases, Churchill remained fearful that arming indigenous troops would pose a threat to officials of the British Raj. This firing “the wrong way” had been witnessed in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857–5814—considered India’s first war of independence—that eventually led to the dissolution of the British East India Company. 

Prompted by anxiety over pro-enemy sentiments among Bengali communities and the leaders of the Satyagraha Movement—who were following the path of Gandhian nonviolent resistance—the government implemented a scorched earth policy in colonies surrounding the Indian Ocean. Thus, the preconceived dual threat of local retaliation and terrestrial surrender to Axis powers resulted in the brutal destruction of land resources. Ripe fields and storehouses were wiped out, vital infrastructure, including land as well as water transport, disrupted. Imperial policies such as the Boat Denial Policy and Rice Denial Policy meant that freshly harvested grain was set on fire, or even dumped into the river. The destruction of numerous boats through search operations froze the navigation network, diminished the number of vessels that brought fishermen to local markets, and led to the breakdown of trade in the delta that facilitated the passage of agrarian produce.15 

In a 1944 novel by Amarendra Ghose, a character reveals his disbelief at the destruction of boats as part of government policy: “They will catch boats! They will catch boats!—don’t you utter those evil words. Is this a moger mulluck (world of utter chaos)?”16 

This atmosphere of shock discloses the character of famine as a reality of extremes, such that its ghostly memory may only be evidenced as a distorted figuration—as a lurid world of chaos. With these systemic ruptures brought to the surface, thousands of families were left jobless, starved, and abandoned as the Bengal Famine gained in ferocity—and still a rising population of refugees and military personnel continued to seek safety in the afflicted terrain. 

Russian intellectual and literary scholar Dmitry Likhachev, a survivor of the blockade-famine of the Siege of Leningrad (1941–44), lucidly said, “In the time of famine people revealed themselves, stripped themselves, freed themselves of all trumpery. Some turned out to be marvelous, incomparable heroes, others—scoundrels, villains, murderers, cannibals. There were no half measures.”17 The moral complex of the famine ties victims and perpetrators into a toxic knot. The cunning tend to outlive the others. Unearthing darker contours of the human spirit, famines create, according to Cormac Ó Gráda, “their own versions of what Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi named ‘gray zones,’ where the survivors are more likely to be the stronger and the savvier, the less scrupulous, and the more ruthless and vicious.”18 In Bengal, the famine created a gender disparity: a great number of women were left to starve, as male members of the family were prioritized, with thousands entering into prostitution during the height of food scarcity.19 

The Bengal Famine composed a perilous trail of debt. In addition to the expropriated resources fueling Britain’s wartime needs, absentee landlords living in Calcutta and other townships continued to charge high rates of interest to the sharecroppers, the landless, and daily wage labor class. Despite peasant rebellions and hunger marches across the countryside, the agrarian worker was asked to settle old debts because there remained no liquidity in the market. Families crumbled as kinship gave way to greed, theft, and distress migration. In a pool of diminishing returns, starvation and indebtedness were corrosively enmeshed. One wonders what it might mean to read sociologist-philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato’s The Making of the Indebted Man within the exploitation economics stirred by colonial governance, and especially within the scheme of this; famine as an invention of calamity with genocidal repercussions. Power relations between the owners and nonowners of capital are manipulated until the entire society becomes indebted.20 In the case of the Bengal Famine, the indebted man’s misery was brought forth via systemic human-earth neglect just as the term “neoliberalism” was first coined and global colonialism struggled to “manage” its enslaved capital during World War II.21 

A new iconography of wretchedness is produced in times of famine, and yet language essentially fails in grasping this ultimate fall into desperation. (There is a close association between humanity’s affective capacities and the experience of endemic hunger: this is little surveyed in reflective studies of famine’s legacy.) Across modern history, artists have taken up the representational challenge and been the foremost chroniclers of these man-made calamities. James Mahony, for instance, published Sketches in the West of Ireland during the Great Famine. In his etching Woman Begging at Clonakilty, published in the Illustrated London News (February 13, 1847), a female with her head covered approaches the foreground, holding a skeletal baby in her right arm. This tiny corpse is carefully balanced as she extends a begging bowl to an invisible public, pressing for alms to buy a coffin for her dead daughter. This sketched figure captured a certain symbolic universality, yet also resonates with the famine sketches of leading Bengali artist and educator Zainul Abedin (1914–1976), who was in his late twenties when the catastrophe struck. He left his teaching job at the Government School of Art in Calcutta to draw accounts of the horrors surrounding him22—traversing ghost villages and metropolitan streets. In rapid strokes, using black ink and dry brush technique, Abedin captures an emaciated man leaning into an overflowing garbage dump, vying with fellow survivors and street dogs for leftover scraps. In another of the “famine sketches,” an old woman with exposed ribs is seen walking together with a young girl carrying a baby in her arms. They are barefoot and seen in profile as though seeking an escape. The woman has a weathered yet determined gaze and grasps an empty dish, perhaps in search of a relief canteen or a donated meal in the vicinity. Crows often find a place in Abedin’s drawings as menacing creatures that encircle the victims, allegories for “the mean opportunist.” The artist himself lived on a meager income at the time and composed these historic drawings on the cheapest available paper—at times even using packaging boards. A materially impoverished eyewitness account. 

Having grown up in the tranquility of the Brahmaputra River basin, Abedin started out as a landscape painter who pictured ordinary and pastoral life in the European academic style. “The river has been my greatest teacher,” he is known to have said.23 The famine changed his outlook entirely, as the river became a site of trauma, choked with death. Abedin devoted the remainder of his life to being a cultural organizer and pedagogue-activist, working across the soon-to-be partitioned subcontinent. Alongside artist comrades such as Chittaprosad Bhattacharya and photographer Sunil Janah,24 his work was featured in the Communist Party paper People’s War, and he served as a member of the Anti-Fascist Writers’ and Artists’ Association of Bengal.25

Sunil Janah, women queuing for rice during the Bengal Famine, Lake Market, Calcutta, 1943

Darkness of Hunger

What if we were to observe the paradigm of modernity as an index of hunger? Hunger and freedom are tied together as part of an abstract social constellation of human principles; starvation and politics operate on a firmer, common ground in histories of oppression. Starvation is a reduction of the sensible, a method of pulverizing defiant consciousness into compliance and mobilizing the state and its ruling class into apathy. Because hunger creates a vacuum in human capacity—a fissure in the structural terms of life—so the very idea of progress is conceptually starved during such periods of socio-environmental tyranny.

As the dust of hunger began to spread in rural Bengal, rumors of food shortages were brutally suppressed, with the colonial government deploying its administrative muscle to silence hearsay and censor field reportage to protect the war economy. In the weekly newspaper Harijan, its editor Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi warned on January 19, 1942, that scarcities could worsen as the war persisted: “There are no imports from outside, either of foodstuff or cloth.” He advised peasants “to grow banana, beetroot, yam and pumpkin.”26 

Among Gandhi’s experiments in nonviolent resistance, the hunger strike remained a vital instrument. Imprisoned as part of the civil disobedience movement with several Indian National Congress leaders protesting British rule, he took to fasting yet again. On February 18, 1943, The Spectator carried the headline: “Mr. Gandhi’s Fast,” reporting on the Mahatma’s first eight days of hunger protest and his correspondence with Viceroy Linlithgow.27 The Viceroy expressed his displeasure, describing the fast as “a form of political blackmail” and claiming that to yield to the expressed demands would show the colonial government in a weaker light. On the other hand, social anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has addressed Gandhian politics of hunger as a specific genealogy engaging the morality of refusal, a fundamental cultivation of restraint as symbolic liberation.28 

Rather than a life-and-death confrontation with the imperial state, Gandhi’s actions were widely reported in Britain as a “Luxury Fast,” painting him as a Kafkaesque “Hunger Artist,” while Bengal involuntarily hungered all around.29 Even in this dire situation, most of the country’s people continued to support the Mahatma’s protest. 

Bodies that yesterday fought for our freedom and today are being literally eaten by dogs and vultures. Is this the tribute a nation pays to its fighters?
—Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Hungry Bengal (1943)

Chittaprosad’s Hungry Bengal, written as a travel report through the famine stricken Midnapur district in November 1943, was censored and seized from public distribution by the British government. Its fiery image-word sequences continue to resonate as a testimony to the escalating horrors. While most copies were burnt, a recently republished facsimile version circulates today. Chittaprosad’s epic narration on the operations of mass starvation and colonial bondage commences at a railway platform: 

In the crowded railway compartment on my way to Midnapur, the daily scenes on Calcutta’s pavements kept on coming back to my mind—the procession of famished, helpless living skeletons that once formed Bengal’s village society—fishermen, boatmen, potters, weavers, peasants, whole families of them; the five corpses I counted one morning in the short stretch of road between Amherst Street and Sealdah station.30

In these initial flashbacks featured in Hungry Bengal, the village and city street become connected with the urge for exodus. Yet the situation on “the other side” was dire, as overpopulated urban areas attempted to get rid of famine victims, fearing they would bring epidemic and further stretch dwindling resources. The railway line remained crucial in the public distribution of rationed rice and flour, but in these desperate times even relief stocks were siphoned off midjourney, while private hoarders continued speculative maneuvers that precipitated harsher shortfalls, and only a minuscule portion reached the communities through shelters and canteens run by the Bengal Relief Committee. 

In his introductory drawing Humanity Dehumanised, Chittaprosad depicts a young father and child, who are both listless and malnourished, seated at the corner of his page. A text caption urges the reader to consider the lives of those who have lost their closest kin and ancestral land. Abandonment lies at the root of Hungry Bengal as the artist-activist investigates personal narratives of those at the brink of existence. During his documentary journey, Chittaprosad spotted a figure hiding in a cornfield whom he described as “a little black doll made of bones”—this child named Ananta had lost his family to cholera and had relinquished his coping mechanisms. The artist rescued him and struggled to bring the boy back to health. Chittaprosad even designed a poster for the acclaimed film Do Bigha Zamin (1953), directed by filmmaker Bimal Roy, which placed a peasant figure at the center of a famine-affected land plot. Drawing upon Italian neorealism, Roy’s film captures the desperate life of a farmer who endures great suffering to defend less than an acre of ancestral land from the hands of a local moneylender who wishes to sell the plot for a mill construction project.

Sunil Janah, orphans waiting for food at a famine-relief center during the famine in Orissa, 1944

Hungry Bengal further outlined the government’s prohibition of public gatherings to address the food crisis and showed how the Communist Party of India’s posters and pamphlets, encouraging solidarity to fight the famine and demanding the release of imprisoned national leaders, were systemically torn down or seized by the police. Together with Chittaprosad, Janah followed the famine through the lens of a Rolleiflex camera. He was then a member of the Student Federation and chose to abandon his studies to travel through the countryside upon the prodding of Puran Chand Joshi, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, under whose influence the CPI joined the Third International and maintained an anti-Fascist position.31 Janah’s powerful black-and-white studies captured the genocide sweeping through undivided Bengal, which includes today’s state of Odisha (formerly Orissa) as well as Bangladesh, and showed how famine unleashed the literal rotting away of civil society. His pictures appeared in People’s War, illustrating a text composed by Joshi, and were later circulated as postcards to raise emergency funds toward the calamity. The republication of his photographic record in Communist newspapers across the world announced its wreckage abroad. It is eerie to view Janah’s imaging of famine victims alongside those of Holocaust survivors, dramatically weaving the global operations of fascism and colonialism together as networks of profound violence.

These humanist projections filled a void left by the colonial press and official figures which drastically understated the death count. The sinister realism was exemplified as Chittaprosad passed deserted villages and barren fields only to find vast scatterings of skulls, bone debris, and looted homes. In a filmed interview many years later, he said: “I represent the tradition of moralists and political reformers. To save people means to save art itself. The activity of an artist means the active denial of death.”32

Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, page from the only surviving copy of the self-published Hungry Bengal (Bombay, 1945; repr., in facsimile by DAG Modern, New Delhi, 2011)

The demographer and economist Thomas Malthus perpetuated the idea that famine is a natural occurrence and the curse of “bad seasons” upon a booming population. In 1798, Malthus referred to it as “the last, the most dreadful resource of nature,” presenting it as a necessary corrective to balance the population quotient with food available in the world.33 The notion of famine as inevitable has been fabricated through the ages and lent weight by myth. In Book XI of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods intervened to scale back the population when “the people became numerous. The land bellowed like wild oxen.”34 The very idea of apocalypse encapsulates a famine narrative—from biblical accounts that disclose the construction of divine wrath to Hindu deities who guard society against natural catastrophe. However, compared to other calamities—floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions—the temporality and scale of famine are the most complex to measure and control. Hunger is that which defies measurement, bearing a resolute political charge. It may never, truly, be accounted for in terms of nutrition. The subjective construction of hunger functions at the level of the gut—the intestinal architecture and cerebral impulses of the human body—but also exceeds corporeality in the experience of appetite and satiety as elemental registrations which determine the level of embodied freedom an individual possesses. There is no common index to chart famine’s comprehensive impact, and here human experience and the regimes of governance become integrally associated.35 The early warning signals of famine cannot be captured by a single instrument nor plotted in waveform, but they might be identified by observing a people—their composure, purchasing capacity, and level of emancipation. 

Although the British insisted they had rescued India from “timeless hunger,” more than one official received a jolt when Indian nationalists quoted from an 1878 study published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society that contrasted thirty-one serious famines in the 120 years of British rule against only seventeen recorded famines in the previous two millennia.36 The Victorian Poor Law, which instituted that the poor must work to access relief in nineteenth-century Bengal, flatly contradicted the traditional Bengali culture of extending nourishment to a suffering community as an essential act and pillar of civility: “food shall be given ungrudgingly, as a father gives food to his children.”37 The Report of the Indian Famine Commission (1880) reflects upon the drought and famine of 1661 under the Mughal Empire. It remains little-known that Emperor Aurangzeb, who has been vilified in contemporary times, led an exemplary relief campaign: opening up the royal treasury, granting market liquidity while selling food grains at reduced prices, as well as distributing free food to the extremely poor. By lowering taxes and remittances of land rent, the sovereign could ensure that millions of lives were saved in the affected provinces.38

Scarcity and the Colonial Imaginary 

Where is the all-powerful white man today? He came, he ate and he went. But we are still around. The important thing then is to stay alive. … Besides, if you survive, who knows? It may be your turn to eat tomorrow. Your son may bring home your share.
—Chinua Achebe, A Man of the People (1966) 

No two famines are the same, even though their symptoms, features, and regulatory schemes circulate as a mimetic reality linked across historical time, impacting planetary life and the future course of statecraft. While it has been argued that such monstrosities diminish in line with modernity’s developmental progress, it is worth remembering that this form of disaster lives on as a double-dealing agent of governance. Meaning that the neoliberal demands and imperialist policies of state politics will eternally recreate the social conditions for famine. Planetary starvation remains a collective dread that is not quite settled into a past tense, never entirely finished. While the etymology and word used to describe it varies across languages, the Roman orator Cicero distinguished the following universal stages: praesens caritas (present dearness or dearth) and futura fames (future famine) or deinde inopia (thereafter want of means).39 

During the Russian Famine of 1921–22, when suffering spread across the Volga and Ural River region, haunting accounts tell of cannibalism and dispossession that drove many thousands into madness after Bolshevik collectivization. Soviet writer Maxim Gorky addressed the world concerning this inhumane situation: “Tragedy has come to the country of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Mendeleyev, Pavlov, Mussorgsky, Glinka, and other world-prized men.” When Gorky finally appealed to Lenin, prompted by economist and former minister Sergei N. Prokopovich, the All-Russian Public Committee to aid the hungry was founded.40 Time and again the world community has relied upon its intellectuals to advocate for a civilized response in the midst of famine and endangered freedoms. The systemic injustice of famine has been used as a visual tableau by artists, activists, anthropologists, journalists, and authors—including those introduced in this essay—to imprint a reminder of “the sensible” upon the collective imaginary. 

As a closing figure, I would recall the printmaker and sculptor Somnath Hore, who became an active member of the Communist Party of India during the Bengal Famine and considered Chittaprosad to be his mentor. Hore’s “Wounds” series from the 1970s, with its scarred, burnt paper pulp, bears the texture of decades of unspeakable suffering—from the Bengal Famine to the bloody partition of the subcontinent, the struggle in Vietnam and the Liberation War in Bangladesh—standing as a memory tablet of loss and a palimpsest of the interrelated currents of modernity. These are artworks that refute erasure, marking history as wound. Hunger, after all, is the most intimate enemy.

Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, page from the only surviving copy of the self-published Hungry Bengal (Bombay, 1945; repr., in facsimile by DAG Modern, New Delhi, 2011)

The author would like to thank Mainul Abedin, Arjun Janah, and Kishore Singh for sharing textual and visual resources without which this essay could not have been configured, and author Madhusree Mukerjee for her excellent book Churchill’s Secret War, and for pointing me to her paper that examines “The Imperial Roots of Hunger.”

The title of this essay is borrowed from Bhabani Bhattacharya’s social-realist novel So Many Hungers! (London: Victor Gollancz, 1947), set against the background of India’s struggle for independence and the Bengal Famine during World War II. 

1 Richard Pankhurst, “The Great Ethiopian Famine of 1888–1892: A New Assessment,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 21, no.1 (April 1966), pp. 95–124.

2 Alexis de Tocqueville, Journey in Ireland: July–August 1835, trans. and ed. Emmet Larkin (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. 14.

3 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

4 Brendan Graham, “Historical Notes: God and England Made the Irish Famine,” Independent, December 3, 1998, section 3. Online:

5 William A. Dando, Food and Famine in the 21st Century, vol. 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), p. 222.

6 Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 11–15.

7 Amartya Sen, “Ingredients of Famine Analysis: Availability and Entitlements,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 96, no. 3 (August 1981), pp. 433–64.

8 Lawrence James, Churchill and Empire: A Portrait of an Imperialist (New York: Pegasus Books, 2014).

9 Ibid., p. 302.

10 Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

11 Viceroy Linlithgow’s Congress statement in The Indian Annual Register (1939) quoted in Devendra Panigrahi, India’s Partition: The Story of Imperialism in Retreat (New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 113.

12 Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War, p. 5.

13 Iftekhar Iqbal, The Bengal Delta: Ecology, State and Social Change, 1840–1943 (New York: Springer, 2010), pp. 161–70.

14 Ibid.

15 Iftekhar Iqbal, “The Boat Denial Policy and the Great Bengal Famine,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh 56 (2011), pp. 271–82.

16 Ibid., p. 273.

17 Anna Reid, Leningrad: Tragedy of a City under Siege 1941–44 (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), n.p.

18 Cormac Ó Gráda, Eating People Is Wrong and Other Essays on Famine, Its Past, and Its Future (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), p. 2.

19 Thomas Keneally, Three Famines: Starvation and Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), p. 55. 

20 Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition, trans. Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), pp. 8–10. 

21 George Monbiot, “Neoliberalism: The Ideology at the Root of All Our Problems,” The Guardian, April 15, 2016. Online:

22 Nazrul Islam, Zainul Abedin: Art of Bangladesh (Dhaka: Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, 1997), pp. 16–21.

23 Ibid.

24 Further discussion of the work of Sunil Janah is available via the artist’s website: 

25 Ibid. 

26 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi quoted in Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War, p. 69. 

27 See “Mr. Gandhi’s Fast,” The Spectator, February 19, 1943. Online:

28 Nalini Malani and Arjun Appadurai, The Morality of Refusal, dOCUMENTA (13): 100 Notes—100 Thoughts, no. 23 (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2011).

29 James Vernon, Hunger: A Modern History (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), n.p.

30 Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Hungry Bengal: A Tour Through Midnapur District in November 1943 (New Delhi: DAG Modern, 2011).

31 Ram Rahman, Sunil Janah: Photographs 1940–1960: Vintage Prints from the Swaraj Art Archive (New Delhi: Vijay Kumar Aggarwal, 2014), p. 9.

32 Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, interviewed in the film Confession, dir. Pavel Hobl (1972), quoted in Chittaprosad: Art as Rebellion, exh. cat., Delhi Art Gallery (Mumbai, 2011).

33 Cormac Ó Gráda, Famine: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), p. 3.

34 Ibid., p. 8.

35 Ibid., p. 13.

36 Cornelius Walford, “The Famines of the World: Past and Present,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 41 (1878), pp. 434–42.

37 Keneally, Three Famines, n.p.

38 Wallace Ruddell Aykroyd, The Conquest of Famine (London: Chatto & Windus, 1974), p. 51.

39 Ó Gráda, Famine: A Short History, p. 4.

40 Keneally, Three Famines, p. 287.