Biography of Hunger: From Food Sovereignty to Food Violence

Food is a cultural catalyst of identity construction, social organization, economic transformation, ideological structures, and political undertaking. By addressing the political dimension of food, this paper focuses on the role the government has in assuring (or not) the right to food. Based on a profound analysis of the ‘21st century socialism’, this paper assesses the way in which rentier capitalism has served the Venezuelan government to transfer oil-wealth to the agro-food industry. During the last decade, the Chavista regime has increased efforts in implementing policies that highly contributed to the monopolization of political power and the militarization of food. By pursuing a food sovereignty initiative, that soon became a food security program, and lately degraded into a food violence agenda, the state succeeded in taking control over the entire food chain —production, importation, commercialization, distribution, consumption, and use of food—. For food producers, the omnipresence of the state creates an inevitable dependency on state-led subsidies, supply networks, transportation, capitals, and technologies. For consumers, food violence concretely translates into an ongoing fight against hunger resulting in long hours queuing, IDs and fingerprints registration, physical violence exposure when buying staples, and the substitution of traditional alimentary patterns for culturally alien products. Venezuela is one of the best examples highlighting how the hyper-regulation of food can lead to inaccessibility and, therefore, starvation; and how hunger can be strategically used for political class-segmentation and popular domination.

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