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global affairs

food fights from the author of the
international bestseller
katherine maher
The History of Love
The hungry world: america’s

Photo: Joyce Ravid

IR-8; Congress expressed grave concern
cold war battle against that seeds would fall into Cuban or Chinese
poverty in asia hands, and the CIA was tasked with evalu- � ”Breathtaking...
by nick cullather ating the threat of a grain gap opening up Krauss’ masterful rendition of character is
cambridge, ma: harvard university press.
between the superpowers. The episode was
368 pages. $35. compelling... [a] tour de force.” —Booklist, starred review
a blackly comedic illustration of govern-
ment attempts to quantify and engineer the
� “This stunning work showcases Krauss’s
S ince humanity emerged from nomad-
ism, the cultivation of food has been a
key component of our culture. It’s a reflec-
movements of pollen itself.
But India was the main theater for US
modernization efforts in political agricul-
consistent talent.... A formidable and haunting mosaic.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
tion of wealth, an indication of mechanical ture. In the aftermath of the 1965 Indo-
prowess, and an instrument of war. And as Pakistani War, the word famine itself became
historian Nick Cullather reminds us, food a tool for setting policy priorities—a lexical “I was captivated
was also the basis for some of the most weapon that the administrations of both by the first chapter,
charged encounters of the cold war, as Indira Gandhi and Lyndon B. Johnson and never disappointed
played out in the developing political and wielded in a masterstroke of politics. The
thereafter....The richness
market systems of Asia. In The Hungry strategic withholding of US aid helped touch
World, he argues that such efforts amounted off a severe drought in some Indian states; of invention, the
to a technocratic seduction of the Asian citizens suffered mass unemployment, infla- beauty of the prose…
peasantry—a wide-scale effort of social and tion, and displacement, while the cities saw the depth of
technological engineering intended to show- strikes and riots. This panic produced the feeling: who would
case the fruits of the capitalist-democratic specter of wider political instability—and not be moved?”
model of agricultural development. that threat, in turn, allowed the Gandhi
—Andrea Barrett,
The United States at midcentury was in government to consolidate power, ensuring
author of Ship Fever
many ways ideally suited to produce the ide- Johnson a friendly, democratically aligned
ology behind agricultural modernization. ally on the Subcontinent.
As Cullather recounts in capacious detail, As such examples make clear, US demog- W. W. Norton
the invention of the edible calorie in the final raphers and agronomists spent much of the Independent publishers since 1923
decade of the nineteenth century—a major cold war drastically reordering community
breakthrough in American ideas about opti- models and farming practices, seeking to
mal food production—foretold the coming maximize market relations. Put another
fundamental shift in the world’s relationship way, in order for the theory of development
with food. Early in the twentieth century, to succeed, it required the imposition of
the United States found a willing test case in abstracted measures—of calorie counts, Modern Ruins
Mexico. Seeking to deter Communist activ- labor costs, passive capital—on the tangible Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region
ity south of the border, the US government world. An exercise of this scale required not Shaun O�Boyle
supported the Rockefeller Foundation’s merely changes in practice but also a trans- Introduction by Geoff Manaugh
efforts to design a prototype for comprehen- formation of how nations recognized and
Shaun O�Boyle has been photographing ruined
sive agricultural reform. Here, Cullather measured wealth.
landscapes and buildings for more than twenty-
argues, America could effectively export its The Hungry World furnishes a striking
five years. This collection of photographs features
exceptionalist vision of democracy sus- vantage on development policy, as well as
some of his best work. The book is divided into
tained through technological advance, on the decidedly mixed outcomes of Ameri-
four sections� each representing a type of site now
inventing new “optimal” measures for pop- can engagement with Asian politics. To a
abandoned—prisons and mental health institu-
ulation and resource scarcity. dramatic degree, contemporary develop-
tions� steel production facilities� coal mining and
The US push for stability through agri- ment has failed to solve persistent chal- �O�Boyle�s photographs do not
processing facilities� and a weapons arsenal.
culture took on fresh urgency after the great lenges. Many beneficiaries of the Green just document the physical details These photographs are hauntingly beautiful� they
upset on the eastern front of the cold war: Revolution remain among those nations of a location but also help to place are also historically and culturally instructive.
Mao Tse-tung’s seizure of power in China. with the highest rates of chronic malnutri-
that location in a much larger history Modern Ruins begins with an introduction by archi-
No longer would bureaucrats in Washington tion, including India, Pakistan, and the
of social change. The hulking blast tectural essayist Geoff Manaugh� who offers insight
deride the “fatal passivity” of the Asian Philippines. Modern accountings of the
peasantry; China—along with the more success of Asia conveniently omit the drug furnaces� prisons� and hospital wards into why people are so drawn to ruins and what

than 80 percent agrarian population of the trade in Afghanistan, sharecropping in that O�Boyle explores in the forests they might mean to us in a larger psychological

surrounding continent—now posed an exis- Pakistan, and the devastation of water sense. Brief essays by noted historians Curt Miner�
of an untended North America are
tential threat nearly on par with the Soviet tables in the more aggressively developed Kenneth Warren� Kenneth Wolensky� and Thomas
bookmarks of often incomprehensibly
Union. Urgently seeking alternate models of stretches of Indian agriculture. Lewis offer social and historical contexts for the
vast economic processes� they sites documented in the book. These sites include
influence, the Truman administration set- Meanwhile, research today points to a
give shape to an industrial history Eastern State Penitentiary� Bethlehem Steel� and
tled on the Mexican model of development great leveling of hunger and poverty; the
as the basis of a new approach to containing British-based Institute of Development of this continent.� Bannerman�s Island Arsenal� among others. The

the Communist threat in Asia. Studies recently published findings showing book concludes with an interview with the photog-
—from the Introduction
Cullather delves deeply into the details of that only 30 percent of the children most by Geoff Manaugh rapher that touches on his fascination with ruins

early American development strategies, likely to be malnourished are living in the and explores some of his procedures for document-

focusing on both the dubious theories and world’s poorest nations. The remaining ing them. Modern Ruins is a compelling collection

the ideological cheerleading that propelled 70 percent are in middle-income countries, of stunning and melancholy photographs� one that

them. In the Philippines and Vietnam, for as nearly all of the Asian nations covered in helps us hear these abandoned places speak.
��� pages | �� color/�� b&w illustrations | $��.�� cloth
example, Cullather chronicles the introduc- The Hungry World are now categorized. A Keystone Book®
tion of IR-8, a visually distinctive, specially This seems like a failure of measurement:
cultivated Green Revolution rice strain, in a How can nations be said to have “devel-
sobering and revealing exposition of how
scientific research can contort itself in pur-
suit of a favored policy. He provides a sharp
account of the media firestorm over discov-
oped” if hunger remains so widespread?
And how, then, do we quantify progress?
penn state press
��� N. University Drive� USB �� Suite C | University Park� PA ����� |
Katherine Maher is a global-development specialist
eries in 1969 that North Vietnam had initi- who blogs on technology and democracy issues at
���.��������.��� | ��������������

ated its own independent cultivation of

bookforum • dec/jan 2011 37

BF.Maher.12.10.indd 37 10/29/10 4:30:43 PM

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