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Open access

Between social footprint and compliance, or “what IBAMA wants”

Equinor Brazil's social sustainability policy

Iselin Åsedotter Strønen

Abstract

This article analyzes an “Environmental Education Project” run by the Norwegian state oil company Equinor targeting poor women in the seafood processing industry along the coastline adjacent to Equinor's offshore Peregrino field in Brazil. The project is a prerequisite for Equinor's operating license, as required by Brazilian federal environmental authorities. I analyze the broader sociopolitical territory within which the project is implemented, how it is discursively framed and institutionally implemented within Equinor Brazil, and how this conjoins with the Brazilian state's regulatory framework. I argue that Brazilian legislation and the hands-on approach of authorities uphold Equinor's commitment to the project and bolster Equinor's CSR practitioners’ capacity to defend it within the corporate organization. The analysis demonstrates how national legislation and political context shape international oil and gas companies’ approaches to CSR.

Open access

Blurred memories

War and disaster in a Buddhist Sinhala village

Mara Benadusi

Abstract

This article analyzes the regimes of truth and efforts at falsification that emerged after the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, where the experience of fear, the blurring of memory, and the fabrication of identity became normalized during the course of a long civil war. By shedding light on the memorialization processes in a Buddhist Sinhala village on the border of the northeastern Tamil zones, the article shows how the tsunami has reinforced governmental devices for controlling peoples and territories, insinuating itself into the core of the enduring process of securitization of fear in Sri Lanka. Yet, however much the politics of memory tends to cloud matters, the article also demonstrates that it never goes uncontested, as long as subjects can channel their capacity for action in unexpected directions.

Open access

Bringing the state back in

Corporate social responsibility and the paradoxes of Norwegian state capitalism in the international energy sector

Ståle Knudsen, Dinah Rajak, Siri Lange, and Isabelle Hugøy

Abstract

This theme section brings the state back into anthropological studies of corporate social responsibility through the lens of Norwegian energy corporations working abroad. These transnational corporations (TNCs) are expected by the government to act responsibly when “going global.” Yet, we have observed that abroad, Norwegian corporations backed by state capital largely operate like any other TNCs. We argue that the driver for the adaptation to global capitalism is not coming from the embracing of neoliberal policies in Norway, but is rather inherent to the ways internationalization of the Norwegian economy is unfolding. To the extent that the Norwegian state has an impact on the corporations’ international endeavors, it relates primarily to the imperative of managing Norway's reputation as a humanitarian superpower.

Open access

Circling around the really Real in Iran

Ethnography of Muharram laments among Shi'i volunteer militants in the Middle East

Younes Saramifar

Abstract

Iranian Shi'i believers claim that capturing sorrow and lamentation in their fullest sense falls beyond language and reason. They constantly refer to their inability to articulate in order to explain martyrdom and highlight a form of unsaid that explains all that appears impalpable for them. I undertake a journey among Iranian Shi'i youth to trace the unarticulated and the sense of wonder generated via religious experiences. By way of an ethnography of Muharram lamentation ceremonies, this article highlights how the unarticulated and the unsaid are socially and politically used in service of Shi'i militancy. I explore those uncharted terrains in the darkness of the Lacanian Real and in terms of how the Real is authenticated in order to address how realities are crafted and religious subjectivities are enacted in the realm of militancy.

Open access

Doing global investments the Nordic way

The “business case” for Equinor's support to union work among its employees in Tanzania

Siri Lange

Abstract

In the Nordic countries, unions are represented in company boards and can influence companies’ policies toward labor abroad. This article focuses on the Norwegian national oil company Equinor and its support of unionization of its employees in Tanzania. This was inspired by the Nordic tradition of social dialogue between corporations and strong, independent unions. Corporation managers and union representatives tend to refer to this social dialogue as “the Norwegian model,” but this is a narrow conceptualization of the model that disregards the role of the state. I argue that while it is beneficial for the Tanzanian workers to be organized, it is probably also “good for business” to have unionized workers who have adopted the Nordic collaborative model, rather than a more radical union model.

Open access

From behind stall doors

Farming the Eastern German countryside in the animal welfare era

Amy Leigh Field

Abstract

Animal husbandry, a major part of the contemporary German economy, is the subject of politically and morally charged discourses about the effects of the industry on the nation's landscape and its role in economic globalization. German politicians and activists often discuss industrialized animal husbandry practices as abusive and polluting. This article analyzes how these debates are imbricated in forms of concern about nonhuman animals that tend to be differentiated geographically by urban-rural boundaries. I argue the privileging of animals as moral entities causes interpersonal friction between those who rely on animals for a living and those who do not, and expresses fundamental tensions about the rural landscape as a space of industrialized agricultural production, as opposed to a space dedicated to the conservation of the natural environment.

Open access

Erik Bähre

H. U. E. (Bonno) Thoden van Velzen (1933–2020) passed away at his home in Huijbergen, the Netherlands, on 26 May this year. Bonno Thoden van Velzen is internationally recognized for his historical and ethnographic study of Surinamese society and religious movements.

Open access

Ståle Knudsen, Ingrid Birce Müftüoğlu, and Isabelle Hugøy

Abstract

Through a multi-sited study of the Norwegian state-owned renewable energy corporation Statkraft, this article explores how the increasing embedding of corporate social responsibility in international guidelines impacts the way responsibility is handled when large energy corporations operate overseas. Focusing on one of Statkraft's projects in Turkey, we detail how standards are used to guide both operations in the field and external reporting, in the process distancing the corporation from its Norwegian origin. We argue that the application of standards results in much less standardization than is often assumed. “Stories” become as important for reporting as standards, and the elusive figure of the “stakeholder” plays an important role in holding together the heterogeneous field of corporate responsibility.

Open access

Work after precarity

Anthropologies of labor and wageless life

Rebecca Prentice

Campbell, Stephen. 2018. Border capitalism, disrupted: Precarity and struggle in a Southeast Asian industrial zone. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Howard, Penny McCall. 2017. Environment, labour and capitalism at sea: “Working the ground” in Scotland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Millar, Kathleen. 2018. Reclaiming the discarded: Life and labor on Rio's garbage dump. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Shakya, Mallika. 2018. Death of an industry: The cultural politics of garment manufacturing during the Maoist Revolution in Nepal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Open access

Audit failure and corporate corruption

Why Mediterranean patron-client relations are relevant for understanding the work of international accountancy firms

Cris Shore

Patron-clientelism and corruption were traditionally viewed as problems endemic to underdeveloped marginal countries with weak states, powerful self-serving elites, and widespread civic disengagement. However, recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in corruption scandals in the Global North, particularly its more developed banking and financial sectors. Paradoxically, this has occurred despite a massive expansion in auditing by international accountancy firms (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, EY) who often portray themselves as warriors of integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct. How are these trends connected? Drawing on anthropological studies of Mediterranean patron-clientelism, I illustrate how collusive relations between accountancy firms and their clients create ideal conditions for corruption to flourish. Finally, I ask how can these accountancy scandals help us rethink patron-clientelism in an age of “audit culture”?