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Framing ‘the Indian Famine’ and Its Victims, 1905-1951

English title Framing ‘the Indian Famine’ and Its Victims, 1905-1951
Applicant Fischer-Tiné Harald
Number 165707
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Geschichte der modernen Welt Institut für Geschichte ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.04.2016 - 30.09.2019
Approved amount 243'216.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
General history (without pre-and early history)
Communication sciences

Keywords (4)

Humanitarianism; Globalisation; Colonialism; Media

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Darstellungen indischer Hungersnotleidender zirkulierten in der zunehmend komplexen globalen Medienlandschaft des 20. Jahrhunderts (1905-1951) und prägten auf diese Weise Vorstellungen, Konzepte und Stereotypisierungen krisenbetroffener Bevölkerungen.
Lay summary
Massgeblich beteiligt an der Konstruktion und Ausgestaltung dieser medialen Präsentationen waren eine Vielzahl, oftmals transnational agierender, sozialer und politischer Akteure, die über Hungersnöte in Nord-Indien berichteten und so Bilder und Beschreibungen ‚des Hungers‘ in moralisch, politisch und religiös geprägte Kontextualisierungen einbetteten. Durch ihr Mitwirken erlangten Darstellungen Hungersnotleidender nicht nur eine zentrale Bedeutung in der Mobilisierung von Hilfsleitungen, sondern wurden darüber hinaus zu einem wichtigen Gegenstand in Diskursen um nationale Identität, soziale Reform und in der Austragung politischer und weltanschaulicher Konflikte. Durch die Analyse zirkulierender Darstellungen des ‚indischen Hungers‘ in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts widmet sich das Forschungsprojekt der Aufdeckung und Erschliessung transnationaler Verflechtungen in Bezug auf frühere und bisher unzureichend thematisierte Beispiele der Nothilfe, der Erweiterung des Wissens um die historische Beziehung von Medien und der Mobilisierung von Hilfsleistungen, und letztlich, der Analyse und Problematisierung von medialen Darstellungsformen und –Inhalten humanitärer Krisen
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.03.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
The Great Bengal Famine in Britain: Metropolitan Campaigning for Food Relief and the End of Empire, 1943–44
Simonow Joanna (2019), The Great Bengal Famine in Britain: Metropolitan Campaigning for Food Relief and the End of Empire, 1943–44, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 1-30.
Review of Benjamin Siegel, Hungry Nation. Food, Famine, and the Making of Modern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018
Simonow Joanna (2018), Review of Benjamin Siegel, Hungry Nation. Food, Famine, and the Making of Modern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018, in H-Soz-Kult, elektronis.
“Bengal, 1943-44: Famine Relief in Times of War"
Simonow Joanna (2017), “Bengal, 1943-44: Famine Relief in Times of War", IEG, Mainz, 0.
"Religiöser Humanitarismus im Zeitalter des Säkularismus: Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und zivile Opfer von Konflikten nach 1945."
Simonow Joanna (2016), "Religiöser Humanitarismus im Zeitalter des Säkularismus: Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und zivile Opfer von Konflikten nach 1945.", H-Soz-Kult, Berlin.
Review of Saurabh Mishra, Beastly Encounters of the Raj: Livelihoods, Livestock and Vet-erinary Health in North India, 1790–1920 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015)
Simonow Joanna (2016), Review of Saurabh Mishra, Beastly Encounters of the Raj: Livelihoods, Livestock and Vet-erinary Health in North India, 1790–1920 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), in Medical History, 60, 2.
“Elendsfotografie und der Hungertod in Bengalen. Einblicke in die Zirkulation der Foto-grafien des Statesman, 1943–44”
Simonow Joanna, “Elendsfotografie und der Hungertod in Bengalen. Einblicke in die Zirkulation der Foto-grafien des Statesman, 1943–44”, in Tönsmeyer Tatjana, Wieters Heike (ed.), Vanderhoeck & Rupprecht, Goettingen.
“Indian famines as global events”
Simonow Joanna, “Indian famines as global events”, in Framke Maria, Fischer-Tiné Harald (ed.), Routledge, London New York.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH) and University of Geneva Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), University of Manchester Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Department of History, St Thomas University, Fredericton Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
School of Historical and Contemporary Studies, Södertörn University Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Ambedkar University Delhi India (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Centre for the study of developing societies, Delhi India (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Modern South Asian History Research Seminar, CeMIS Göttingen Talk given at a conference “After the ‘late Victorian holocausts’: Transnational responses to famines, starvation and malnutrition in colonial and early postcolonial India, c. 1900–1955” 28.05.2019 Göttingen, Germany Simonow Joanna;
British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS) Annual Conference Talk given at a conference “Promoting ‘American’ Solutions to India’s Food Crisis in the 1940s and 1950s” 03.04.2019 Durham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Simonow Joanna;
Kolloquium, University of Giessen Talk given at a conference “Inszenierungen von Humanität, Solidarität und Macht im Kontext indischer Nahrungs-mittelkrisen in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts: Über Strukturen und Motivationen der Nothilfe“ 31.10.2018 Giessen, Germany Simonow Joanna;
European Social Science Conference Talk given at a conference “Securing India’s Equal Share: American Delegations, the Indian Food Crisis and the World’s Hunger in the Aftermath of the Second World War” 04.04.2018 Belfast, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Simonow Joanna; Fischer-Tiné Harald;
Global War, Global Connections, Global Moments. International Conference about the First World War at the University of Zurich, Talk given at a conference “Missionary Networks and the Global Response to Famine in India in the Wake of the First World War, c. 1918-1920.” 02.01.2018 Zürich, Switzerland Simonow Joanna;
International Convention of Asian Scholars, Talk given at a conference “’I am sure, readers want to give any help they can’: Mobilising relief to famine-stricken Bengal during World War II, 1943-45” 20.07.2017 Chiang Mai, China Simonow Joanna;
Annual Conference on South Asia Talk given at a conference “Indian Leftism and the Hungry Peasant: Imag(in)ing rural India during famine and food scarcity (1942–1946)” 22.10.2016 Madison, United States of America Simonow Joanna;
51. Deutscher Historikertag 2016 Talk given at a conference “Framing the ‘Indian victim of hunger and starvation’ in political and humanitarian dis-courses of the 1940s 22.09.2016 Hamburg, Germany Simonow Joanna;
24th European Conference on South Asian Studies (ECSAS) Talk given at a conference “'Who lives if Bengal dies?' Indian communists and the staging of famine and hunger, c.1942–46” 27.07.2016 Warschau, Poland Fischer-Tiné Harald;
University of Regensburg, Lehrstuhl für Neuere Geschichte Individual talk Die mediale Inszenierung Indischer Hungersnöte in politischen und humanitären Diskur-sen“ 12.05.2016 Regensburg, Germany Simonow Joanna;


Awards

Title Year
Annual Prize for the best graduate Essay 2019, British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS). 2019

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
144483 South Asian Humanitarianism in Armed Conflicts, 1899-1947 01.01.2013 Project funding

Abstract

This research project explores depictions of the ‘Indian famine victim’ as the object of colonial, nationalist and global discourses on famine relief in order to illuminate ideas, concepts and stereotypes applied to the public portrayal of ‘aid recipients’ in the first half of the 20th century. Using critical moments in the historical genesis of the media as a guiding thread, the project aims to explore portrayals of famine and its ‘victims’ in a variety of media types, including print, photography and film. Particular attention will be given to the agency and leverage of social and political actors in and outside of India who mediated Indian famine in keeping with their own agendas and, hence, embedded textual and visual images of famine in India in larger narratives on moral, political and religious responsibility. As such, these images had the potential to motivate the formation of philanthropic initiatives, the collection of donations and the provision of relief. However, stories and images of famine in India also entered the context of the growing competition for social prestige and political power, which had the effect of rendering ‘Indian famine victims’ the object of discourses on national identity, social reform and of political demands. Despite the omnipresence of ‘the famine victim’ in discourses of relief, in fundraising appeals and in visual depictions of India as ‘famine land’ the people actually affected by food scarcities appear to be marginalised in public discourses - a tendency that is echoed by their absence in historiography. This silencing of famine-affected populations can be viewed as part of a larger process, in which categories of gender, class and ethnicity were applied to construct differences and legitimise hierarchies. The intended exploration of the representation of ‘famine victims’ in the media is thus a necessary step to place people affected by famine at the centre of historical research and contemporary debate. The project examines the press coverage of a selection of Indian famine discourses in the British Empire, North America and Europe, in conjunction with advocacy material produced by civil society actors. The insights gained will facilitate a broader understanding of the position of the ‘Indian famine victim’ in 20th-century conceptions of relief, provide a historical perspective on the portrayal of humanitarian crises and shed light on the underlying motivations and agendas of the actors situated at the intersections of media, politics and philanthropy.
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