Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of California / Los Angeles

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Stanford University
Crude Fictions: Oil and the Making of Modularity in Equatorial Guinea

At the center of the petroleum industry’s ‘new Persian Gulf,’ the central African micro-state of Equatorial Guinea has seen over 10 billion dollars in petroleum-related capital investment over the last six years, and is now Africa’s third largest oil producer. While some scholarship suggests that Equatorial Guinea will now join a class of typical oil states that includes Nigeria, Venezuela, Kuwait, etc., anthropology finds this narrative of ‘typicality’ reductionist, and points instead to contingent realities unique to particular sites like Equatorial Guinea. My project starts from a dissatisfaction with this opposition, and asks instead, what cultural work is required to produce and maintain typicality, replication, and modularity? If, in attempting to recreate a specific environment, the petroleum industry requires that certain things be erased and others created, what are those erasures and creations in Equatorial Guinea? Through an institutional ethnography of a major oil company and participant observation in a colossal, oil-funded public works project, this study aims to illuminate the twin processes of transformation and reproduction in Equatorial Guinea. My research will be the first ethnographic project in this country by an American scholar, and will contribute to ongoing anthropological discussions on how situated ethnographic work can produce results at a scale that might effectively participate in larger debates.