Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
Exposing the Makings of a Social World: Transnational Workers, Local Residents and Oil Infrastructure in the Niger Delta

Too often studies on petroleum extraction locate their analysis within its broader dynamics: processes of commoditization, location of consumption, and the transformation of revenue into state or transnational capital. The social relations and micro-networks that emerge in everyday spaces of production demands further examination. My project is both a historical look at how extraction infrastructure has shaped the socio-political realities of Nigeria's oil producing Niger Delta region, and an anthropological account of how people construct a way of living within the volatile geography of a transnational petroleum extraction site. Rather than positing the state, multinational corporations, and local indigenous communities as monolithic actors in a resource war, my research examines long-standing infrastructures of petroleum extraction in the Niger Delta for their under-girding social logics. I will study how local residents and oil workers in the Nigerian village of Olomoro and the town of Ughelli-linked together through one of many pipelines running across in the Niger Delta region-are netted into each other's lives by quotidian encounters at local bars, churches, and marketplaces, as well as by intimate entanglements of family relations, sexual economies, formal and informal fiscal arrangements. I will examine what identities and communities, spaces and movements are generated in this theater of encounter where transnational workers and indigenous residents construct a livelihood amidst the volatile geography of oil extraction. To pursue these interests I propose the following research questions: What are the everyday discourses and practices that allow a repressive and destructive environment to remain a viable space of living? How can the dynamics engendered in t