Empire, Colonialism, and Famine in Comparative Historical Perspective
Kyiv, June 5-6, 2017
The Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) announces the availability of travel grants to early career scholars to attend its conference Empire, Colonialism, and Famine in Comparative Historical Perspective, to be held June 5-6, 2017, in Kyiv, Ukraine. The grants will support early career scholars in deepening their understanding of the Holodomor and other famines in the context of empires and colonialism through engagement with leading scholars in these fields. Participants coming from outside Europe will be eligible for grants of up to $1,000 US; from Europe, for grants of up to $600 US. This event is a continuation of a discussion initiated at the conference by the same name that was held October 28-29, 2016, in Toronto.
Presenters will include Frank Dikotter (University of Hong Kong); Peter Gray (Queen’s University, Belfast); Andrea Graziosi (Università di Napoli Federico II, Naples); Michael Hechter (Arizona State University and University of Copenhagen); Liudmyla Hrynevych (Institute of History, Academy of Sciences, Ukraine); Mark von Hagen (Arizona State University); and Janam Mukherjee (Ryerson University, Toronto).
The Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, known as the Holodomor, has been compared productively with the nearly simultaneous famine in Soviet Kazakhstan as well as with the later Chinese famine and other famines that occurred in communist states. Following the “imperial turn” in Russian and East European histories, scholars have considered the USSR as an empire (Terry Martin, Yuri Slezkine, Ron Suny, Joerg Baberowski) and raised the prospect of comparing the Soviet with late imperial famines (Mark von Hagen, Liudmyla Hrynevych) and other twentieth-century state forms referred to increasingly as colonial, notably Nazi Germany and its hunger policies in Eastern Europe (e.g., the siege of Leningrad and the starvation of Soviet prisoners of war) (Mark Mazower, Timothy Snyder, Wendy Lower).
While comparison of the Holodomor with the Irish Gorta Mor has given rise to conferences and publications (Christian Noack, Lindsay Janssen, Vincent Comerford), the approach has yet to be framed within new narratives of colonialism or imperialism. The path-breaking study by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, focuses on how the British Empire employed famine to extend the liberal market to its colonies by destroying “basic institutions of the victims.” Building on insights from Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, Davis addresses famines in India, China and Africa and sees early parallels in the Irish famine of 1846-48, placing it in the context of Malthusian theories invoked to support constraints to famine relief in India. Stalinist collectivization policies can be understood as a version of the colonial view that segments of humanity are expendable in the building of a greater, imperial civilization.
Collectivization was a war waged against the peasantry, resembling a military occupation conducted by Red Army soldiers and veterans, NKVD troops, and militarized party members.
The decision of Winston Churchill’s wartime British government not to send famine relief to India on “strategic grounds” consigned 1.5 to 4 million Indians to death in 1943. The first book to depict the tragedy, Hungry Bengal, was banned in 1944 (5,000 copies were seized and destroyed), bringing to mind the Stalin regime’s taboo against mentioning its man-made famine, in place until the late 1980s. Amartya Sen, a survivor of the British famine, has asserted that while famines are most often triggered by meteorological or ecological events, the decisive factors nearly always involve political decisions about the distribution of scarce food supplies during wartime or peacetime shortages. Famine, then, is a drawn- out form of political violence that deprives humans of the fundamental human right to survival.
Empires at times have shown little will to prevent famine, sometimes manipulating food provision as a weapon to control and/or exterminate social classes and “disloyal groups” in order to achieve political goals. The imperial famines have horrifying similarities, including roots in imperialistic governance, the vertical hierarchy of metropolis and colony, and the sacrifice of lives at the “periphery” in the name of the greater good of the empire.
The conference will explore these issues and ways imperial governments have understated or hidden the results of faminogenic policies and the reactions of victims, first and foremost in the anti-colonial, anti- imperial movements in which the experience of man-made famine has served as a powerful awakening factor and motivation for achieving political transformation. Holodomor and Gorta Mor: Histories, Memories, and Representations of Famine in Ukraine and Ireland (London: Anthem Press, 2012).  Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (London/New York: Verso, 2002), 280.  The Great Transformation (New York/ Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1944), 10.  Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, pp. 32, 46, 306.  Nonna Tarkhova, Krasnaia Armiia i stalinskaia kollektivizatsiia, 1928-1933 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2010); Andrea Romano and Nonna Tarkhova, L’Armata Rossa e la collettivizzazione delle campagne nell’URSS, 1928-1933: raccolta di documenti dai Fondi dell’Archivio militare di Stato Russo (Napoli : Istituto universitario orientale, 1996).  Lizzie Collingham, The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food (New York: Penguin Press, 2012), 141-54.
Travel Grant Application Procedure
Participants coming from outside Europe will be eligible for grants of up to $1,000 US; from Europe, for grants of up to $600 US. Note that the Kyiv organizers have arranged double occupancy hotel rooms for $70-$80 per room, ($40 per person per night).
Please submit the following by April 7, 2017, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line, Conference Travel Grant:
- A statement (500-750 words) answering the questions:
- How will your attendance enrich or support you in your research, teaching and/or career?
- What impact will deepening your understanding of empires, colonialism and famines, including the Holodomor, have on your work or career in the short and long term (in terms of publications and teaching, for example)?
If you attended the Toronto conference (October 2016), please indicate how you view this follow-on Kyiv conference as an opportunity for your professional growth.
- A current curriculum vitae/resume.
- A letter of support from a professor (if a graduate student) or colleague. If you attended the Toronto conference and we have a letter on file, we do not require another.
Applicants will receive notification of award status by April 14, 2017.