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Crude Domination

Crude Domination: An Anthropology of Oil

Andrea Behrends
Stephen P. Reyna
Günther Schlee
Series: Dislocations
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Crude Domination
    Book Description:

    Crude Dominationis an innovative and important book about a critical topic - oil. While there have been numerous works about petroleum from 'experience-far' perspectives, there have been relatively few that have turned the 'experience-near' ethnographic gaze of anthropology on the topic.Crude Dominationdoes just this among more peoples and more places than any other volume. Its chapters investigate nuances of culture, politics and economics in Africa, Latin America, and Eurasia as they pertain to petroleum. They wrestle with the key questions vexing scholars and practitioners alike: problems of the economic blight of the resource curse, underdevelopment, democracy, violence and war. Additionally they address topics that may initially appear insignificant - such as child witches and lionmen, fighting for oil when there is no oil, reindeer nomadism, community TV - but which turn out on closer scrutiny to be vital for explaining conflict and transformation in petro-states. Based upon these rich, new worlds of information, the text formulates a novel, domination approach to the social analysis of oil.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-256-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Part I Generalities

    • Chapter 1 The Crazy Curse and Crude Domination: Towards an Anthropology of Oil
      (pp. 3-29)
      Stephen P. Reyna and Andrea Behrends

      Immanuel Wallerstein wrote of a ‘systemic crisis’ that he believes within twenty-five to fifty years would produce ‘disintegration of our existing historical social system’ (1997: 1256). Strong rhetoric from a person dedicated to painstaking investigation of thelongue duréeof the modern world system, and not to histrionics. It might be objected that Wallerstein is to the Left and besides that he is an intellectual and so not a practical person of the world. Consider the practical world of government and journalism. Alan Greenspan, ex-Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, respected elder statesman of US finance and an architect of...

    • Chapter 2 Oiling the Race to the Bottom
      (pp. 30-46)
      Jonathan Friedman

      Silver is said to have been a curse for the Spanish American Empire. This ‘silver curse’ was obvious to at least one early Spanish commentator:

      although our kingdoms could become the richest in the world for the abundance of gold and silver that have come into them and continue to come from the Indies, they end up as the poorest because they serve as a bridge across which gold and silver pass to other kingdoms that are our enemies. (Cortes in Cipolla 1993: 186)

      Silver was a curse because it encouraged a massive increase in demand, driving up prices. This...

  5. Part II Africa

    • Chapter 3 Blood Oil: The Anatomy of a Petro-insurgency in the Niger Delta, Nigeria
      (pp. 49-80)
      Michael Watts

      The courtroom was sterile and cold, in its own way threatening and intimidating. Sitting on her elevated platform and bracketed on each side by US and Californian flags, Judge Susan Ilston presided over the proceedings with a firm hand, staring intently at the legal teams over a mountain of documents of Himalayan proportion. The federal courtroom reminded me of nothing more than the drab socialist office spaces I had seen in the 1980s populated by Russian or Polishnomenklatura. The jury appeared utterly bored, a posse of locals whose sartorial standards were not about to launch any of them onto...

    • Chapter 4 Fighting for Oil When There is No Oil Yet: The Darfur–Chad Border
      (pp. 81-106)
      Andrea Behrends

      This article analyses how the possibility of oil and conflict mobilises local, national and global actors on the Chad/Sudan border, where there is in fact no oil yet. It poses two questions: how has oil, both as local possibility and as national reality in Chad and Sudan, influenced the fighting on the border of Darfur (Sudan) and Wadai (Chad)? And, from another angle, how do the actors involved in this fighting relate to the factor of oil? The first question suggests a reflection on the resource of oil as an element in promoting conflict. Here, I follow Marchal and Messiant...

    • Chapter 5 Elves and Witches: Oil Kleptocrats and the Destruction of Social Order in Congo-Brazzaville
      (pp. 107-131)
      Kajsa Ekholm Friedman

      According to World Bank figures on economic performance, oil-producing African countries, such as Congo-Brazzaville, which this chapter deals with, are doing fairly well.¹ Congo-Brazzaville is today Africa’s fourth largest oil producer. Nigeria is number one, Angola number two and Gabon number three. To anthropologists and certainly to most political scientists the picture of sub-Saharan Africa in general, with a few exceptions, is by contrast grim and alarming. As Jean-Francois Bayart pointed out as early as 1990, the process of change does not bring forth development and improvements but entails, instead, a return to ‘the heart of darkness’, now as well...

    • Chapter 6 Constituting Domination/Constructing Monsters: Imperialism, Cultural Desire and Anti-Beowulfs in the Chadian Petro-state
      (pp. 132-162)
      Stephen P. Reyna

      Let us begin with one of those verbal texts found in anthropologists’ notebooks. This one contains an exchange between myself and a chauffeur in 2003, during which I became a participant in the diffusion of gossip prevalent in the Doba Basin (the southern Chad region roughly between Doba to the east and Moundou to the west). We were at a petrol station in a crowded, dusty and hot market town. The chauffeur was filling the tank. I leaned against the 4X4. The conversation was serendipitous. We had been talking about animals in the bush. I knew that there were not...

  6. Part III Latin America

    • Chapter 7 The People’s Oil: Nationalism, Globalisation and the Possibility of Another Country in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela
      (pp. 165-189)
      John Gledhill

      As Karl (1997) has demonstrated, nations that possess an abundance of ‘natural wealth’ in petroleum have an abysmal track record on providing a decent standard of living for the majority of their citizens. Coronil’s (1997) book on Venezuela not only lends strong support to that argument but also disentangles stories of ‘development failure’ from Occidentalist explanations focused on Latin America’s supposed social, cultural and political deficits relative to the North Atlantic world. Scepticism about such explanations is more vital than ever as northern powers and multilateral agencies insist that the region can only overcome its legacy of deficits by abandoning...

    • Chapter 8 ‘Now That the Petroleum Is Ours’: Community Media, State Spectacle and Oil Nationalism in Venezuela
      (pp. 190-219)
      Naomi Schiller

      Five days before the August 2004 presidential recall referendum in Venezuela, a young woman named Damales, together with eight neighbours from Lidice, a low-income neighbourhood in Caracas, arrived at Catia TVe. One of the founders of the community television station had invited Damales and her neighbours to appear on his talk show to discuss their efforts to mobilise voters in support of President Hugo Chávez. Looking nervous but excited, Damales sat on a faded brown couch in the television studio. A handmade Catia TVe sign hung on the wall behind her. Holding the microphone steadily with both hands, Damales spoke...

    • Chapter 9 Flashpoints of Sovereignty: Territorial Conflict and Natural Gas in Bolivia
      (pp. 220-240)
      Bret Gustafson

      It was mid-May of 2006 in Camiri, a provincial city of thirty thousand in the gas- and oil-rich Chaco region of southeastern Bolivia (Figure 9.1). Several hundred Hispano-Bolivian¹ college students and indigenous Guarani schoolteachers-in-training milled about on the Parapeti River bridge north of town. The atmosphere was one of bored calm, yet they were staging a contentious blockade of the modest dual carriageway crossing the bridge. On the town side, a road grader was parked across the road. Its tyres were flattened and mounds of rocks and logs had been piled around it. On the other side of the bridge...

  7. Part IV Post-socialist Russia

    • Chapter 10 Oil without Conflict? The Anthropology of Industrialisation in Northern Russia
      (pp. 243-269)
      Florian Stammler

      Nyadmanesia was a highly respected experienced reindeer nomad in northwest Siberia, whose migration route leads through Bovanenkovo, one of the world’s largest gas deposits, on which extraction is due to start before 2013. His sad story indicates a tendency in the north of avoiding open conflicts when confronted with industrial development. Nyadmanesia chose suicide as one way of avoiding conflict, but his son continues to move with his herd on that route, and recently had to sign off a crucial area for an industrial sand quarry which effectively renders his migration to the summer pastures impossible. This chapter will review...

    • Chapter 11 ‘Against … Domination’: Oil and War in Chechnya
      (pp. 270-297)
      Galina Khizriyeva and Stephen P. Reyna

      The Czarist Empire had been moving south into the Caucasus in fits and starts since the sixteenth century. This expansion intensified in 1783, during Catherine the Great’s reign, as part of the Russo-Turkish Wars. It provoked Sheikh Mansur’s uprising in 1785, that sought to drive the Russians from the Caucasus, but which had failed by 1791. Russia proclaimed the Northern Caucasus to be a part of the Russian Empire in 1817. Historians of the Caucasus have argued that Russian acquisitions in the region promised very little in terms of natural riches, and that securing of oil was not a reason...

  8. Afterword Suggestions for a Second Reading: An Alternative Perspective on Contested Resources as an Explanation for Conflict
    (pp. 298-302)
    Günther Schlee

    Crude Dominationproposes an anthropological perspective on the analysis of oil. As a number of scholars have suggested, oil has been a curse in developing countries, most of whom have found their economies more fragile, their political regimes more authoritarian, and their conflicts increased. Stephen Reyna and Andrea Behrends, in the volume’s introduction, go one step further and suggest that this curse is ‘crazy’ because oil brings wealth, which would seem to be the means to bring harmony and affluence, but which turns out to be the means to bring trials and tribulation. The different articles in this volume richly,...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 303-306)
  10. Index
    (pp. 307-326)