Hunger Games: Analyzing Relationships between Food Insecurity and Violence

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Hunger Games: Analyzing Relationships between Food Insecurity and Violence

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


What impact does food security have on patterns of conflict within developing states? Does increasing local food security levels exacerbate or help to quell violence in these areas? Answering these questions using both high-resolution and global data on conflict and food production, as well as a large variety of analytical techniques designed to address the different reciprocal and sequential relationships between food production and conflict, my dissertation shows that—contrary to previous expectations—conflict in the developing world is frequently driven, on average, by abundance and not by scarcity. The dissertation establishes two mechanisms to explain this relationship. The first in- volves conflict designed to secure local food resources for the group’s own consumption, and is hence termed “possessive conflict” over food security. The second relates to situations where armed groups use violence to regulate the food supply available to other groups by prevent- ing access to and destroying these resources, and is hence termed “preemptive conflict” over food security. Original archival evidence from the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya highlights the microlevel importance of controlling food resources and increasing group—and community—resilience; different armed actors might therefore gravitate into food-abundant areas, increasing the frequency of local armed conflict and incidents of violence against civilians. This archival evidence also shows that some food resources, such as maize and wheat, are much more valuable as an input of rebellion, and are thus more likely to and more frequently attract conflict locally. Finally, the role of highly nutritional food resources in engendering and perpetuating rebellions is evaluated on a global sample consisting of all rebellions. The data used in these macrolevel cross-national models builds on food types and other factors deemed especially salient in the microlevel analyses. Substantively, the effect of nutritious food resources is shown to surpass that of other benchmark explanations of conflict such as economic development and political openness. These findings suggest that food resources and their impact on rebellions should be taken seriously by academics and policymakers alike.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2017. Major: Political Science. Advisor: John Freeman. 1 computer file (PDF); 246 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Koren, Ore. (2018). Hunger Games: Analyzing Relationships between Food Insecurity and Violence. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.