Adam Gilbertson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Adam is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and a research associate of Oxford’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. Adam’s doctoral research (2013) focused on the relationship between food insecurity, everyday food practices, and experiences of intimate partner violence within Kenyan informal settlements. His current work at UNC considers the social and ethical implications of existing (and future) efforts to cure HIV.



The Causes and Consequences of Njaa (hunger) in the Household: Food Insecurity and Intimate Partner Violence within a Kenyan Informal Settlement

In Kenya, informal settlements or “slums” are residential spaces characterized by poverty, high population densities, undeveloped infrastructure, sub-standard housing, tenuous land rights, increased rates of infectious diseases, and food insecurity. In these informal settlements, pesa (money), sex, food, and gender are intimately connected to domestic power relations. Experiences of hunger following instances of spousal conflict contribute to feelings of domestic uncertainty and further friction in the household, thereby creating cycles of violence and insecurity. When utilized as an instrument of abuse, food takes on exaggerated significance for intimate relationships within households that struggle (and often fail) to make ends meet. Using data gathered over 15 months through participant observation, questionnaires, and 109 in-depth interviews with 67 participants, this paper provides an ethnographic account of the relationship between everyday food practices and experiences of intimate partner violence using an anthropological approach informed by ecological and biocultural perspectives.