Paper: Governing the dead: the role of hunger courts in shaping grief and loss during famine

Paper details

Paper authors Naomi Pendle
In panel on The politics of solidarity during famine
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


This paper will explore the impact that chiefs’ courts have on redistributing shame, blame and accountability for hunger. The paper argues that, while the courts have a lifesaving welfare role, they can shift blame from extreme hunger and famine away from conflict and authoritarian regimes, and towards vulnerable families. The paper explores the related impact that this can have on the norms of burial and grieving for those whose deaths are connected to hunger. The paper will draw on some initial observations and accounts from Warrap State, but will also draw on Mary Douglas and Sharon Hutchinson’s work to theoretically explore how bodies can become polluted through a lack of food.



Naomi Pendle