Front and Back Covers, Volume 28, Number 4. August 2012


Front and back cover caption, volume 28 issue 4


Over the last decades, the Olympic Games have increasingly claimed to deliver a social and economic ‘legacy’ to the host city. The 2012 Olympic Games in London have set out to deliver a legacy of better food for east London, an area perceived as ‘deprived’, with higher than average rates of obesity and significant ‘food deserts’ in its midst. Various Olympic organizations have considered the issue, resulting in the publication of a Food vision for the first time ever in Olympic history.

However, with companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's having been appointed official suppliers to the Games, and with an extremely limited time frame, will the Games be able to deliver on this promise?

Allotments have been demolished and plans are afoot for Queen's Market, Upton Park, to be replaced by a supermarket. In response, Queen's Market traders and customers protest that demolition of their market goes against the Olympic spirit. Indeed, the Games could be used instead to help improve access to London's ethnically diverse markets far beyond the borough limits, as suggested in this postcard distributed by campaigners.

As Freek Janssens argues in his guest editorial in this issue, the 2012 Games provide the opportunity to more critically assess how food serves the marginalized in our ethnically diverse inner cities. Also in this issue, Johan Fischer deals with halal, another topic that impacts athletes and spectators at the Games, with sporting events taking place during ramadan.


Aisha, a door-to-door entrepreneur in CARE Bangladesh’ s Rural Sales Programme (RSP), is one of 3,000 previously ‘destitute’ women who now earns an income by selling branded consumer goods across rural villages under a partnership between CARE and global multinationals such as Danone, Bic, and Unilever. Similar female distribution systems are now popping up across the world. From Procter and Gamble's distribution of sanitary pads to ‘poor’ adolescent girls in Kenya and Malawi, to Unilever's Shakti ammas distributing soap village-to-village in rural India, companies aim to expand their bottom line by fostering entrepreneurial opportunities among the poor through so-called ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BoP) initiatives.

Such initiatives reflect the changing nature of international development where new development actors – celebrities, philanthrocapitalists, multinational corporations, social entrepreneurs etc. – spearhead efforts to reduce poverty, replacing the role long occupied by states and aid agencies. Today some of the world's largest corporations have become key players in global development by selling ‘socially beneficial’ products to the ‘poor’, and by drawing them into global commodity chains as entrepreneurs. These efforts are now widely endorsed as part of a pro-market development agenda that looks to the perceived ‘efficiency’ of the private sector to do what billions of aid dollars have been unable to do.

BoP distribution systems can offer ‘poor’ women like Aisha an opportunity to earn an income and contribute to the food security of their family. But these engagements pose risks as well as rewards, and raise pressing questions for anthropologists about how, under what terms, and with what effects, global capital is linking up with informal economies in the name of development.