Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas

Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas

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"Oil is a fairy tale, and, like every fairy tale, is a bit of a lie."—Ryzard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs

The scale and reach of the global oil and gas industry, valued at several trillions of dollars, is almost impossible to grasp. Despite its vast technical expertise and scientific sophistication, the industry betrays a startling degree of inexactitude and empirical disagreement about foundational questions of quantity, output, and price. As an industry typified by concentrated economic and political power, its operations are obscured by secrecy and security. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the social sciences typically approach oil as a metonym—of modernity, money, geopolitics, violence, corruption, curse, ur-commodity—rather than considering the daily life of the industry itself and of the hydrocarbons around which it is built.

Subterranean Estates gathers an interdisciplinary group of scholars and experts to instead provide a critical topography of the hydrocarbon industry, understood not solely as an assemblage of corporate forms but rather as an expansive and porous network of laborers and technologies, representation and expertise, and the ways of life oil and gas produce at points of extraction, production, marketing, consumption, and combustion. By accounting for oil as empirical and experiential, the contributors begin to demystify a commodity too often given almost demiurgic power.

Subterranean Estates shifts critical attention away from an exclusive focus on global oil firms toward often overlooked aspects of the industry, including insurance, finance, law, and the role of consultants and community organizations. Based on ethnographic research from around the world (Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Oman, the United States, Ecuador, Chad, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Canada, Iran, and Russia), and featuring a photoessay on the lived experiences of those who inhabit a universe populated by oil rigs, pipelines, and gas flares, this innovative volume provides a new perspective on the material, symbolic, cultural, and social meanings of this multidimensional world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801479861
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 06/24/2015
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,062,075
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Hannah Appel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Arthur Mason is visiting faculty at Rice University and University of Tromsø. Michael Watts is Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Development Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is coeditor of Violent Environments, also from Cornell, author most recently of Curse of the Black Gold, and coauthor of Afflicted Powers.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Oil Talk
Hannah Appel, Arthur Mason, and Michael Watts

Part I. Oil as a Way of Life

1. Oil for Life: The Bureau of Mines and the Biopolitics of the Petroleum Market
Matt Huber

2. Velocity and Viscosity
Peter Hitchcock

3. Deep Oil and Deep Culture in the Russian Urals
Douglas Rogers

4. Oil, Masculinity, and Violence: Egbesu Worship in the Niger Delta of Nigeria
Rebecca Golden Timsar

Part II. The Oil Archive, Expertise, and Strategic Knowledges

5. The Oil Archives
Andrew Barry

6. Securing the Natural Gas Boom: Oil Field Service Companies and Hydraulic Fracturing's Regulatory Exemptions
Sara Wylie

7. Crude Contamination: Law, Science, and Indeterminacy in Ecuador and Beyond
Suzana Sawyer

8. The Image World of Middle Eastern Oil
Mona Damluji

Specters of Oil: An Introduction to the Photographs of Ed Kashi
Michael J. Watts

Photo Essay
Ed Kashi

Part III. Oil Markets: Turbulence, Risk, and Security

9. Near Futures and Perfect Hedges in the Gulf of Mexico
Leigh Johnson

10. Securing Oil: Frontiers, Risk, and Spaces of Accumulated Insecurity
Michael J. Watts

11. Oil Assemblages and the Production of Confusion: Price Fluctuations in Two West African Oil-Producing Economies
Jane I. Guyer

Part IV. Hard and Soft Infrastructures

12. Offshore Work: Infrastructure and Hydrocarbon Capitalism in Equatorial Guinea
Hannah Appel

13. Black Oil Business: Rogue Pipelines, Hydrocarbon Dealers, and the "Economics" of Oil Theft
Elizabeth Gelber

14. The Political Economy of Oil Privatization in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan
Saulesh Yessenova

Part V. Oil Futures and Oil Transitions

15. Carbon, Convertibility, and the Technopolitics of Oil
Hannah Knox

16. Events Collectives: The Social Life of a Promise-Disappointment Cycle
Arthur Mason

17. Reserves, Secrecy, and the Science of Oil Prognostication in Southern Arabia
Mandana E. Limbert

18. Vicious Transparency: Contesting Canada’s Hydrocarbon Future
Anna Zalik


What People are Saying About This

Anthony Bebbington

"With essays from senior and emerging scholars alike, this is an 'oil book' like no other. Writing from different regions of the world, addressing hidden corners of the industry, and describing the knowledge that is deployed to make oil extractable, profitable, and contestable, the contributors help the reader get a handle on the symbolic, political, material, and social complexity of the oil assemblage. In the process, they make a global phenomenon that is as opaque as it is immense a bit more intelligible."

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