​A jury consisting of Zeynep Taydas (Clemson University), Aysegul Aydin (University of Colorado- Boulder) and Jana Krause (University of Oslo) have awarded the 2021 Journal of Peace Research ‘Nils Petter Gleditsch Article of the Year Award’ to Alison Heslin (Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University) for her article entitled ‘Riots and resources: How food access affects collective violence’ (JPR 58:2). All articles published in Volume 58 of the JPR were eligible for the award. Articles were judged on their theoretical contribution, methodological sophistication and substantive relevance. 

The award-winning article addresses an important question and offers a novel insight into the collective violence literature by examining the role of food access in riot mobilization. Using an in-depth analysis of two sets of events — riot occurrence and non-occurrence in West Bengal (India) and Dhaka (Bangladesh) — the study unravels the complexity of the food and conflict relationship. In both places, riots took place during a period of sharp global increases in food prices, which saw ‘foot riots’ erupt in a number of countries, primarily in the Global South. Relying on newspaper reports of riots and extensive interviews, Heslin analyzes the motives and grievances of community members in riot-hit places and contrasts them to communities where rioting did not take place. She argues that many ‘food riots’ were not, in fact, directly motivated by food access. Rather, her analysis of pathways of mobilization demonstrates that a change in food access motivated protest and violence by changing the meaning and severity of existing grievances, some of which were unrelated to food access, such as low wages and corruption. The article outlines the ways that food access interacts with local contexts to initiate violent conflict. The author concludes that effectively addressing the causes of food-related instability requires understanding local contexts, motivating grievances, and how food access relates to these grievances.

The article brings theoretical and methodological sophistication to an under-studied phenomenon and makes an important contribution to research on political violence, climate change, and global inequalities. The author also contributes to the resource curse literature by suggesting that food prices are more likely to motivate riots, compared to oil and clothing. The jury hopes that Heslin’s article will stimulate further research on the global and local dynamics of food access, climate change, and conflict, which is much-needed by policy-makers.

The award is USD 1,000.

Honourable mention goes to the runners-up:

Philip A Martin (2021) Commander-community ties after civil war. JPR 58(4): 778-793.

Valerie Sticher & Siniša Vuković (2021) Bargaining in intrastate conflicts: The shifting roles of ceasefires. JPR 58(6): 1284-1299.