Famine-Crime as Popular Action

Sanjay Sharma

in Famine, Philanthropy and the Colonial State

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780195653861
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081653 | DOI:

Series: SOAS Studies on South Asia

Famine-Crime as Popular Action

Show Summary Details


This chapter explores famine-crimes during 1837-8 with a view to constituting official notions of famine related collective crimes as being expressions of popular action. The author argues that these were suggestive of deep-rooted tensions between society and the colonial state. Since distinctions between known and new ‘criminals’ and between rank and class, tended to blur in collective popular action, official perceptions of crime at this time were ambivalent, with the context of scarcity posing problems of legal classification. The colonial state found it difficult to deem the repeated plunder of hoarded grain as heinous crimes, and found itself on the side of rioters. The chapter also discusses suicides, increasing hunger in women and children, the kidnapping (for ransom) of male children, and the sale of girl children.

Keywords: famine; crime; popular action; colonial state; rural policing; moral economy

Chapter.  24095 words. 

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.