Volume 1, Number 2 (2008)

The Neoliberal Geopolitics of Food Security: the Case of Indonesia

Jamey Essex

University of Windsor 


The centering of development in post-9/11 US national security strategies, combined with the restructuring of the US state’s foreign development apparatus, promise deep changes in understandings and practices of food security and its relationship to development and processes of neoliberalization, securitization, and militarization.  Long a stated objective within US foreign aid programs, especially those based around food aid, recent strategic shifts have rescripted food security as a basic need that should be met through the market, and as a proxy measurement for good governance.  By the same token, food insecurity becomes a measure of poor governance and a contributor to political instability and persistent underdevelopment, laying the groundwork for international terrorism and criminal activity.  This paper examines the altered contexts and practicalities of US food aid in Indonesia, as the relationship between such assistance and broader projects of sub-imperialism and neoliberalization, in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia more generally, must be interrogated.  US development and geopolitical strategies identify Indonesia as both a strategically important ally in the global war on terror and a vulnerable state, prone to deteriorating security and governance. Under post-9/11 security and development strategies, development and humanitarian assistance centered on food aid and improved food security have become primary components of US policy in and toward Indonesia.  I ground my discussion in two case studies: security-oriented food-for-work programs in Jakarta and the militarization of food aid in post-tsunami Aceh province.

Keywords: food aid, food security, Indonesia, militarization, scale, social reproduction