Crisis Talk: The Ford Foundation in India, 1952-61
This project is a response to two related questions: where do crises come from and what does crisis talk do? I track the activities of the Ford Foundation in India between early 1950s-60s, paying close attention to its 1959 Report on Food Crisis in India and Steps to Meet It. The report stemmed from the Foundation’s frustration with India’s development strategy which underwent a Soviet-style turn towards rapid industrialization in 1955. Its authors use what one observer calls a “strategy of terror” to argue that unless India immediately shifted its focus to a food-first (and industry-second) approach to development, it would face a grave food crisis that no amount of imports could ameliorate. However, I argue that this crisis talk was not so much as predicting a future, as creating it – one where India’s development goals were more closely aligned with the West’s in the context of the Cold War. Crisis, thus, served as a powerful tool for the Foundation to make a case for a highly unpopular policy recommendation that was otherwise bound to be rejected.
This work was completed as a part of my senior thesis in Science, Technology and Society, and is funded by the Center for the Advanced Study of India, Wolf Humanities Center, and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.