This article traces the emergence of an “oil insurgency” in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. A key concept deployed in the analysis is the oil complex, understood as a sort of corporate enclave economy and also a center of political and economic calculation expressed through the operations of a set of local, national, and transnational forces that can only be dubbed as imperial oil. The operations of the oil complex under conditions of U.S. military neoliberalism create the violent and unstable spaces that David Harvey identifies as “accumulation by dispossession”. The insurgency is understood in terms of a deep history of political and economic marginalization and deepening political mobilization and militancy within the Niger Delta. What the oil complex has thereby produced is a fragmented polity with parcellized sovereignty rather than a robust, modern oil nation.
The anatomy of a petro-insurgency in the Niger delta
The Darfur-Chad border
The area around the border of Sudan and Chad, where Darfur lies, has been an unimportant and unknown backwater throughout history. Today, however, Darfur is all over the international press. Everybody knows about the grim war there. There is no oil currently in production in Darfur. However, there is oil in the south of neighboring Chad and in Southern Sudan, and there might be oil in Darfur. This article considers a case of fighting for oil when there is no oil yet. It takes into account the role of local actors doing the fighting, that is, the army, rebels, and militias; national actors such as the Sudanese and Chadian governments; and international actors, such as multinational oil companies, the United States, China, and the United Nations. It explains how oil can have disintegrative consequences even when it is still only a rumor about a future possibility.
Nationalism, globalization, and the possibility of another country in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela
This article examines similarities and differences in the development of the oil industries of Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela through an analysis of the struggles and alliances between their elites, political classes, and diverse popular forces. The analysis demonstrates that although history has produced popular skepticism over the meaning of the state's claim that “our oil belongs to the people,” a popular imaginary of the potential link between national resource sovereignty and social justice has had powerful historical effects. Despite the structural differences between these cases, it remains today at the center of emergent alternatives that cannot be dismissed simply as a return to the populism of the past. While its main significance in Mexico to date has been to impede persistent efforts to privatize the industry, in the cases of Venezuela and Brazil we may now talk of significant possibilities for building a more multipolar world economic order.
Weaponization of the RICO Act across jurisdictional borders
Lindsay Ofrias and Gordon Roecker
This article examines how the world’s arguably largest oil disaster, in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, has become a testing ground for new global forms of corporate power and the criminalization of dissent. Following the ongoing “trial of the century” between Chevron Corporation and plaintiffs representing tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and indigenous people affected by the disaster, we look at how the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act has been applied against the affected people and their lawyers to sidestep the norm of international comity and alter the parameters for pursuing environmental justice. Specifically, we point to how the case—and a new crop of cases following suit—has threatened to criminalize the use of “lawfare” as a “weapon of the weak.”
Comunidad Emiliano Zapata, Veracruz, Mexico
Irvin Aguilar León
*Full article is in Spanish
English abstract: This article responds to the question: how do the inhabitants of a community perceive the transformations of their territory associated with oil extraction policy in Mexico that are defined and upheld by prevailing political-economic trends? Oil extraction in Mexico has only highlighted the importance of oil as a main element of the country’s economic development. This situation contributes to the invisibility of the harmful effects in the territories where extraction takes place. The article focuses on the analysis of seven socioterritorial transformations that took place in the socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-political and socio-environmental context of the Emiliano Zapata community. The perception of the inhabitants regarding the oil extraction activities that take place in their community shows they have been negatively impacted by sociocultural and socio-environmental contexts.
Spanish abstract: Este artículo tiene como objetivo responder a la pregunta: ¿cómo perciben los pobladores de una comunidad las transformaciones de su territorio asociadas a una política de extracción de petróleo en México, definida y adecuada con base en las tendencias político-económicas imperantes? La extracción de petróleo en México ha destacado la importancia del petróleo como elemento principal del desarrollo económico del país. Esta situación contribuye a invisibilizar los efectos nocivos en territorios donde tiene lugar su extracción. El artículo analiza siete transformaciones socioterritoriales ocurridas en el contexto sociocultural, socioeconómico, sociopolítico y socioambiental de la comunidad Emiliano Zapata. La percepción de los pobladores en torno a las actividades de extracción de petróleo que tienen lugar en su comunidad evidencia que han impactado negativamente su contexto sociocultural y socioambiental.
French abstract: Cet article a pour objectif de répondre à la question suivante : comment les habitants d’une communauté mexicaine perçoivent-ils les transformations de leur territoire associées à une politique d’extraction pétrolière qui est défi nie et adaptée en fonction des tendances politiques et économiques actuelles ? L’auteur prend comme point de référence la politique d’extraction pétrolière au Mexique, à partir de l’expropriation pétrolière de 1937 et jusqu’à la dernière Réforme énergétique de 2013, période caractérisée essentiellement par l’importance du pétrole comme un élément de développement économique du pays. Cette situation contribue à invisibiliser les effets nocifs dans les territoires d’extraction. L’article centre l’analyse autour de sept transformations sociales du territoire qui surgissent dans le contexte culturel, économique, politique et environnemental de la communauté Emiliano Zapata, qui se trouve au centre des opérations d’un gisement pétrolier.
African Trade and Chinese Oil Production in Western Chad
The oil industry tends to remain disconnected from local realities surrounding production sites, a situation that can be explained by theories of enclaving and technological zones. Despite these barriers, local people try to connect to and profit from oil projects that are set up in their vicinity. This article explores the relationships between a Chadian merchant, who started as a worker in the oil fields, his suppliers of goods and credit, and a Chinese oil company. The analysis focuses on the improvisation that the merchant and his Chinese clients undertook in order to develop trade in a difficult supply situation. The African system of trade enabled the Chinese company to overcome challenges to its project, while helping the merchant convert oil money into commercial capital.
Partnership or Conflict? A Reflection on the Etnologicheskaia Ekspertiza
For the indigenous peoples of northern Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, Sovietization and industrial development—including onshore oil and gas development from the 1920s have resulted in the loss of language, ethnic homogeneity, and the lands where they practice traditional livelihood activities. Multinational offshore oil and gas projects commenced in the late 1990s. Sakhalin's indigenous people initially sought partnerships with the multinationals, but turned to protest in 2005, demanding among other things that companies complete an etnologicheskaia ekspertiza (anthropological expert review or ethno-cultural impact assessment). This is a relatively new Russian term and no methodological guidelines currently exist in Russian law. One of the offshore projects, the Sakhalin-2 Project, completed an international-style social impact assessment in 2003. The author compares this assessment and the World Bank social safeguard standards adopted by the Sakhalin-2 Project with the etnologicheskaia ekspertiza, arguing for the integration of Western and Russian approaches, in order to establish a sound scientific and legal basis for the assessment of socio-economic and cultural impacts of industrial projects on local communities.
Jens Bjelland Grønvold
This article attempts to draft the constructive role religion can play in a rich, oil-producing Western country. The article presents a brief history of environmental commitment within the Church of Norway, and shows how this commitment is making an impact both theologically and politically. Theologically, the result is a reorientation of classic, anthropocentric theology toward a more biocentric theology in which all of creation is viewed as equally important. As a concretization of such a theology, this article looks to the circle of life advocated by the Sami theologian Tore Johnsen. Bridging theology and politics, this article also presents the commitment of Bishop Tor Berger Jørgensen in the political debate about oil exploration in certain areas off the coast of his diocese. Jørgensen's commitment and Johnsen's work are examples of how Christian churches can address the global ecological crisis using their best tool: theology.
Evenki Concerns Regarding the Proposed Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline
Gail Fondahl and Anna Sirina
Indigenous peoples' rights to a healthy environment and to be able to participate in decisions affecting their environment are increasingly recognized in Russian law. In this article we explore the case of the Evenki living at the north end of Lake Baikal, who are faced with the construction of an oil pipeline through their home-land. The Evenki perceive significant potential risks to their livelihoods and lifeways due to potential environmental degradation from the pipeline, risks that destabilize their substantive rights. They also express frustration over their inability to participate in the pipeline planning—their procedural rights to decision making are not being realized. While the pipeline project is currently stymied over environmental concerns, environmental and cultural justice concerns of indigenous peoples could pose considerable de jure obstacles to its future progress, given the pipeline construction company's disregard of indigenous rights.
Oil, Empire, and Patrimonialism in Contemporary Chad
Stephen P. Reyna
This article concerns a type of change involving implementation of 'traveling models'—procedural cultural plans of how to do some-thing done somewhere elsewhere. Specifically, it concerns the World Bank's traveling model of oil revenue distribution in support of Chadian development. It finds that this model is failing and that dystopia is developing in its stead. A contrasting explanation, which examines the contradictions and consequences of Chadian patrimonialism and US imperialism, is proposed to account for this state of affairs. Finally, the analysis is shown to have implications for conceptualizing patrimonialism and planning development.