Meat and Strength: The Moral Economy of a Chilean Food Riot

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Essay Excerpt

The policies of a Latin American government drive food prices up; unions and neighborhood associations in the capital city organize a demonstration; the government calls in the army; many people are killed; an uneasy truce prevails. As area specialists and indeed most newspaper readers and television watchers know, such sequences of events are common in recent Latin American history. Such events seem familiar, not only because they appear regularly in journal articles, in books, in headlines, and on the evening news, but also because they can be easily fitted into plausible narrative frames. The actors (desperately poor masses, unresponsive governing elites) are well known, and they are engaged in a common sort of conflict (debates in public arenas over economic policies). The opening event in the narrative, a sudden rise in food prices, can be understood as one of the natural vicissitudes of an underdeveloped economy. Most readers, accustomed to hearing of such occurrences, would not be likely to question the direct links from the first event to the second, the public expression of political discontent, and then to the third, the repression by the government.

This article examines one such set of events, which took place in Santiago, Chile in 1905, and compares it to food riots in other parts of the world (234).

Orlove, B. S. "Meat and Strength: The Moral Economy of a Chilean Food Riot." Cultural Anthropology 12.2(1997): 234–268.

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