Hunger and Human Dignity: The Politics of Hunger Courts in South Sudan

Project status


Hundreds of millions of people remain chronically hungry and famines have not ended. COVID-19 now threatens to increase hunger and its consequences. Extreme hunger does not only threaten life, but it can also remove human dignity from the living and the dead. Vibrant ethnographic work has shown how people living through hunger support each other. However, almost no attention has been paid to the use of courts in times of extreme hunger, nor to the legal construction of norms that shape the relationship between hunger, social responsibility and dignity. This research explores these questions through a study of South Sudanese hunger courts – chiefs’ courts that redistribute food to the hungriest people. Using historical, ethnographic and quantitative methods across four sites in South Sudan, this predominantly South Sudanese team will explore the socio-legal construction of norms of welfare and dignity, as well as social hierarchies and inequities.

Research team

Dr Naomi Pendle, London School of Economics and Political Science; Professor Jok Madut Jok, The Sudd Institute, South Sudan

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