The Benefits of Famine
A Political Economy of Famine and Relief in Southwestern Sudan, 1983–89

By David Keen

“This thoroughly researched and well-written book is essential reading not only for all who deal with famine relief and disaster management but also for students of public health, the social sciences, and rural development.”

The Lancet

“Keen has done a marvellous job of exposing powerful local, national, and international actors who have variously manipulated the famine tragedy in the Sudan to serve their narrow self-interests.… The unusual strength of this book is the way in which the author has skilfully demonstrated how different regimes in Khartoum exploited Western security perceptions in the region for their own political and strategic ends. Amidst Cold War politics, aid donors feared that linking relief aid with progress on peace negotiations and human rights, might have produced a backlash against their vital security interests in the region. This belief encouraged Khartoum to define unilaterally the relief problem and how to solve it and, in due course, to pass judgment on its own effort.”


“The 1988 famine was a dress rehearsal for Darfur. Many of the same groups and persons who benefited from the famine Keen describes are benefiting from the crisis in Darfur today; many of the same constraints that prevented an effective international response then still impede action now...For these reasons The Benefits of Famine is as relevant to understanding the ongoing war in Darfur as it is to understanding the recently ended civil war.”

Douglas H. Johnson, from the Foreword

The conflict in Darfur had a precursor in Sudan’s famines of the 1980s and 1990s. David Keen’s The Benefits of Famine presents a new and chilling interpretation of the causes of war-induced famine. Now in paperback for the first time with a new and updated introduction by the author, The Benefits of Famine gives depth to an understanding of the evolution of the Darfur crisis.

David Keen is Reader in Complex Emergencies at the Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Related Subjects

African History · Sudan · African Studies



Retail price: $28.95, S.
Release date: Oct. 2008
320 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:World (exclusive in Americas, and Philippines) except British Commonwealth, Continental Europe, and United Kingdom