‘Seeing’ Papua New Guinea

Making Order and Disorder through a Petroleum Project

in Social Analysis
Author:
Steffen Dalsgaard Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark sdal@itu.dk

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Abstract

This article contributes to debates about how capitalist corporations ‘see’, and how they concurrently relate to the places where they are located. It argues that an analytical focus on ‘seeing’ illuminates how internal organization and outward relation making are tied together in complex ways. Even so, corporations of the extractive industries in particular cannot be assumed to encompass a single coherent view. The empirical case is a critical examination of how a gas project employed strict health, safety, and security measures to generate order when encountering alterity in an unfamiliar environment in Papua New Guinea. It reveals how the project was organized around two conflicting ways of seeing its host country—trying to separate itself from it while simultaneously having to engage and provide benefits for it.

Contributor Notes

Steffen Dalsgaard is an Associate Professor in the research group Technologies in Practice at the IT University of Copenhagen. He holds a PhD in Anthropology and Ethnography from Aarhus University. Since 2002 he has conducted research in Papua New Guinea, specializing in state and political leadership. His most recent project analyzes the social and cultural value of carbon in the form of emissions data. His publications include the volume Time and the Field (2015), co-edited with Morten Nielsen. E-mail: sdal@itu.dk

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