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Crafting Spaces of Value

Infrastructure, Technologies of Extraction and Contested Oil in Nigeria

Omolade Adunbi


This ethnographic investigation of the rise of the artisanal oil refining industry in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, shows how oil infrastructures have become contested between the state, multinational oil corporations and local youths in what I call a ‘new oil frontier’. I argue that artisanal refineries are indicative of the politics of crude oil governance and reveal complex, integrated and innovative forms of extractive practices by youth groups within many Niger Delta communities. Using the example of the Bodo community in Ogoniland, where local youths operate refineries constructed with local materials and technology, I show that such refineries represent an emergent form of energy capture that transforms the creeks of the Niger Delta into islands of carbon sale and challenges state and corporate power.

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Decoupling Seascapes

An Anthropology of Marine Stock Enhancement Science in Japan

Shingo Hamada


The roles played in fishery resource management by the nonhuman species that coevolve with humans are often marginalized in both discourse and practice. Built on existing reviews of the multispecies ethnography of maritime conservation, domestication, and marine biology, this article aims to reconceptualize the politics of difference in stock enhancement. By examining the herring stock enhancement program in Japan as an assemblage of multispecies inter- and intra-action in the context of marine science and seascaping, this article recontextualizes fisheries management and crosses the methodological and ontological borders in maritime studies. The article shows that multispecies ethnography serves as a heuristic means to describe the co-constitution of seascapes, which are beings, things, and bodies of information and processes that shape marine surroundings, or what fisheries biologists and fisheries resource managers tend to overlook as mere background.

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Documenting Sea Change

Ocean Data Technologies, Sciences, and Governance

Kathleen M. Sullivan


This review examines social science and practitioner literature regarding the relationship between ocean sciences big data projects and ocean governance. I contend that three overarching approaches to the study of the development of ocean sciences big data techne (the arts of data creation, management, and sharing) and data technologies can be discerned. The first approach traces histories of ocean sciences data technologies, highlighting the significant role of governments in their development. The second approach is comprised of an oceanic contribution to the study of ontological politics. The third takes a human-social centered approach, examining the networks of people and practices responsible for creating and maintaining ocean sciences big data infrastructure. The three approaches make possible a comparative reflection on the entangled ethical strands at work in the literature.

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Andrew Sanchez

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Judith Bovensiepen, Martin Holbraad, and Hans Steinmüller

During the current global pandemic, a series of transitions have taken place at Social Analysis. Judith Bovensiepen from the University of Kent and Hans Steinmüller from the London School of Economics have joined Martin Holbraad, University College London. The three of us will edit the journal from this issue onward as a team, supported by our editorial assistant, Alonso Zamora Corona, and the staff at Berghahn.

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European Anthropology as a Fortuitous Accident?

Reflections on the Sustainability of the Field

Čarna Brković


Under what conditions does European anthropology emerge today as an intellectual project? European anthropology takes shape only provisionally, as a fractured, heterogeneous and uneven field, for the duration of time-limited research projects and meetings with Europe-wide participation. In the currently dominant socio-economic conditions of academic life, European anthropology as an intellectual project has little chance to develop, except as an accident. And yet, with more institutional stability for researchers and their conversations, European anthropology could be turned into a more inspiring intellectual endeavour that challenges the classic Anglo-Saxon way of understanding anthropology as a conceptual translation between ‘our’ modern and ‘Other’ worlds; it could also help us to reimagine the world anthropologies framework through the postsocialist and postcolonial lens as something other than a ‘family of nations’.

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Experiments in Excreta to Energy

Sustainability Science and Bio-Necro Collaboration in Urban Ghana

Brenda Chalfin


In the quest for alternatives to energy extraversion and carbon-heavy extraction, transformation of waste to energy is growing worldwide. In Ghana's working-class city of Ashaiman, an international NGO converts faecal waste into electricity through a massive biodigester. Fed by public toilets, the power is sold back to residents. Touted as an exemplar of sustainable development, Ashaiman's case demonstrates that when power comes from human waste, the entanglement of energopolitics and biopolitics, but also energopower and necropower – the political uses of death and decay – is undeniable. Premised on such ‘bio-necro collaborations’ and enabled by sustainability science, these interventions activate state monopolies of waste while assimilating bodily excesses of urban dwellers. Marking the intimate exploitations of internal energy frontiers, an ever-tightening circuitry of energy production and political-economic incorporation results.

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Forum Introduction

Anthropological Boundaries at Work

Francisco Martínez

This Forum sets out to contribute to the understanding of anthropologists’ identification with their discipline, the homogeneity of anthropologists as an academic group, and how our disciplinary boundaries are constructed and embodied. It provides different angles on the academic demarcations influencing how anthropology is practiced in Europe. Four colleagues explore different ways of questioning the boundaries of our discipline, opening up spaces for remaking anthropology (what can be said and done, and by whom).

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Green Out of the Blue, or How (Not) to Deal with Overfed Oceans

An Analytical Review of Coastal Eutrophication and Social Conflict

Alix Levain, Carole Barthélémy, Magalie Bourblanc, Jean-Marc Douguet, Agathe Euzen, and Yves Souchon


Despite causing harmful impacts on coastal communities and biodiversity for a few decades, eutrophication of marine systems has only recently gained public visibility. Representing a major land-based pollution, eutrophication is now considered the most striking symptom of intractable disruption of biogeochemical nutrient cycles at a global scale. The objective of this article is to analyze multi-scale dynamics of the problematization and regulation of ocean overfertilization. To do so, we build on a comprehensive literature review of previously published works that address the sociopolitical dimension of eutrophication issues and whose visibility we analyze with a critical perspective. We identify three stages that characterize the social history of marine eutrophication and how it was handled by public authorities. Although social mobilizations focus on emblematic sites, conflicts directly related to eutrophication symptoms spread in diverse hydro-social configurations. We conclude with a typology of four configurations associated with enduring nutrient pollution: noisy, overwhelming, silenced, and disturbing eutrophication.

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Joshua Mullenite

Barber, Benjamin R. 2017. Cool Cities: Urban Sovereignty and the Fix for Global Warming. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 224 pp. ISBN: 978-0-300-22420-7.

Günel, Gökçe. 2019. Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0091-4.