(Time02)
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives
Location Examination Schools East School
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Gisa Weszkalnys (London School of Economics) email
  • Kärg Kama (University of Birmingham) email

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Short abstract

This panel asks new questions about the multiple temporalities of resource-making raised by current research in anthropology and cognate disciplines. Papers will explore the variety of imaginative practices involved, drawing on a range of methods and analytical approaches.

Long abstract

Recent studies of natural resources have highlighted their processual, indeterminate and often speculative nature as the outcome of a variety of imaginative practices (e.g. cultural, techno-scientific, governmental, entrepreneurial, financial). Inherent to these practices are important temporal aspects which have remained remarkably underexplored in anthropology and cognate disciplines. This panel takes the existing cross-disciplinary literature on resources as a springboard for asking new questions about the multiple temporalities generated by processes of resource-making. These range from anticipations of resource matters to their diverse retentions and affective presences, to other non-linear temporal and material states once processed or unmade as a resource. Current examples of resource-making projects highlight their incremental and performative nature, including the "mortgaging" of hydrocarbon futures by emerging producer states; the constitution of "reclaimed" landscapes in the context of mine decommissioning and closure; the circulation of overinflated resource estimates in the quest for "unconventional" fossil fuels and novel extractive spaces (e.g., ocean seabeds); as well as the specific modes of financialisation with their localised ramifications at global resource frontiers. Important questions are also raised by the parallel life of extractive waste products and by development projects that have been blocked or indefinitely postponed due to various techno-scientific, political and economic factors. We invite papers that explore the diverse engagements with time that underpin these and other resource-making endeavours, drawing on a range of methods and trans-disciplinary analytical approaches.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Resource Temporalities

Authors: Gisa Weszkalnys (London School of Economics) email
Kärg Kama (University of Birmingham) email
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Short abstract

TBC

Long abstract

TBC

Shale gas development and owned hydrocarbon futures: The temporal power of volatile infrastructures, unruly materialities and conspiracies

Author: Anna Szolucha (Polish Academy of Sciences) email
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Short abstract

I explore how a particular configuration of power based on the appearance of a predetermined hydrocarbon future was created out of a heterogeneous set of circumstances surrounding shale gas development. The analysis points also to multiple temporalities that unsettled the narratives of control.

Long abstract

I explore how the power of the hydrocarbon futures has been created on the ground of shale gas activities in the UK and Poland. How is it possible that the future in those localities seems to be predetermined and out of reach for the local residents opposed to hydraulic fracturing? The development of unconventional resources in recent years has to be analysed as a key element contributing to the continuing power of hydrocarbon futures. What work is required to control the future in this way?

Shale gas developments in Europe have not moved beyond the exploration phase and it remains uncertain whether they ever will so the future of fracking is at the same time purely abstract and speculative as well as laden with the heaviest socio-political imaginaries. On the most basic level, shale gas developments and the attendant hydrocarbon futures can appear as predetermined/owned through the local work required to: build and maintain fracking infrastructures despite the unruly materialities on the ground and sustain shale gas as a viable and desired energy option in the face of popular resistance. I explore the formal and informal politics of time involved in the ontology of managing and contesting the hydrocarbon future by rendering visible the affective power of shale gas infrastructures, conspiracy stories and the unruly materialities of the subsurface.

I analyse these dynamics by drawing on three years of ethnographic and documentary research in Lancashire and the region of Grabowiec in Poland.

The temporality of livestock markets: pastoralist mobility and the anticipation of animal prices in northern Kenya

Author: Sipke Shaughnessy (University of Cambridge) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on research in northern, Kenya, this paper will examine how pastoralists anticipate fluctuations in livestock prices, and compare their strategies for taking advantage of market temporalities to those historically used for dealing with variability in the availability of natural resources.

Long abstract

Mobile pastoralism is widely regarded as a livelihood strategy that is well suited to the irregular distribution of essential resources, such as water and pasture, in the semi-arid rangelands of East Africa. Historically, pastoralists practiced a form of mobility in which people and their herds moved to where these resources were likely to be in most abundance. This involved a high level of expertise regarding vegetative distribution and the likelihood of rainfall in a given place and time. However, due to an increased need for cash in recent decades, many pastoralists have had to adopt further methods, theories and strategies for anticipating and benefiting from fluctuations in livestock and smallstock prices. Because livestock markets are physical spaces, often located far from pastoralists' homesteads, anticipating market fluctuations adds a further dimension to pastoral mobility, with pastoralists speculating about and moving with their animals to better markets, much like other 'natural' resources. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research in northern Laikipia, Kenya, this paper will examine how the Iln'gwesi Maasai calculate, predict and take advantage of fluctuations in sheep and goat prices, and asses whether strategies for dealing with market temporalities can be compared to those for dealing with ecological uncertainties. In addition, it will look at how these calculations take place at the intersection of ecological, cultural and state temporalities by taking into account the impact which factors like drought, disease, school terms, religious holidays and traditional ceremonies have on the supply of and demand for meat.

The price of becoming a mineral: Coltan, money and plural temporalities in Sierra Leone

Author: Lorenzo D'Angelo (University of Milano-Bicocca) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines the temporal process of coltan-making, an high-value mineral extracted in Sierra Leone at the artisanal level. It shows how the process of coltan- and price-making is based on the possibility of managing the multiple temporalities of coltan mining.

Long abstract

This paper examines the temporal process of coltan-making, an high-value mineral extracted in Sierra Leone at the artisanal level. Among the miners, doubts and perplexities about the real name and actual industrial uses of this mineral go hand in hand with the uncertainties that characterise its exchange value. Indeed, one of the main problems that torment these workers is how to determine the true value and the right price of a mineral that offers "fast money".

Drawing upon fieldwork experience in the mines of Sierra Leone (2007-2016), this paper focuses on the strategies adopted by a mining community to gain a degree of control over the local price of coltan. It shows how the process of coltan- and price-making is governed not only by market dynamics and powerful global actors, but also by local miners, traders, and traditional authorities' economic strategies. The cornerstone of these strategies is based on the possibility of managing access to the mines and (de)synchronizing the temporalities of coltan mining. By drawing upon the recent anthropological and philosophical debates on time, I endeavour to employ and develop the notion of plural temporality in order to grasp the material, ecological and imaginative aspects of the coltan production.

(Im)Permanent Development: The Affects of Value and Oil Speculation in Kenya

Author: Doris Okenwa (London School of Economics and Political Science) email
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Short abstract

This paper considers how resource-making in Kenya is articulated around the concept of permanence. Through various strategies deployed to materialise oil, what emerges is in fact a struggle over value. That is, the idea that some resources have the potential to create more wealth than others.

Long abstract

What might a fruitful extractive encounter entail? The state of oil exploration in Kenya has given rise to tensions between market speculation, revenue anticipation and people's expectations particularly those in the host community- Turkana County. A region erstwhile considered arid and unproductive by the state. For many of my interlocutors and indeed others in resource extraction frontiers, the proof of progress is in how oil's transformative powers are deployed for good in concrete, tangible ways. Permanent houses of brick and mortar financed through wages from oil company employment, permanent employment that keep the wages coming, permanent roads that endure - in short, permanent development which ultimately speaks of connection. Thus, through its material arrangements, oil becomes an affective presence that animates landscape, redefines value, mobilises people into action, creates new social and political formations.

What this paper considers, are the ways in which resource-making endeavours in Kenya are articulated around the concept of permanence. Making capital stay and do good. Through anticipatory and negotiation strategies of national meetings, local dialogues, expert knowledges, situated politics and community protests around oil, I show how this assemblage reveals a struggle over value and competing resource imaginations. Exploring the pre-resource antecedents in Turkana County, I argue that the region's long history with transient development interventions have created a local defiance of market prospecting and techno-scientific logic as people seek to make speculation concrete.

Fast Capitalism & Slow Resistance: An Ethnography of Dual Temporalities in Extraction & Resistance

Author: Amber Murrey-Ndewa (University of Oxford) email
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Short abstract

Taking the varied speeds of action(s) within the 25-year lifespan of the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline as the point of departure, this discussion centers on the assorted ways in which speed informs perceptions of and potential resistances to extraction at the scale of the grassroots.

Long abstract

From exploration, design and engineering, negotiations, community engagement, construction and export to afterlife and on, complex socio-political changes and ecological shifts within extractive landscapes reflect the interactions and relations of and between spatiality and temporality. Taking the varied speeds of action(s) within the 25-year lifespan of the enduring Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline as the point of departure, this discussion centers on the assorted ways in which speed informs perceptions of and potential resistances to extraction at the scale of the grassroots in two communities in Cameroon. Early on, the spatial dispersal of the pipeline across the landscape, already fracturing dissent in particular ways, was compounded by the dual-speeds through which the construction (fast) and socio-environmental protection mechanisms (slow) were implemented. A focus on how and why grassroots communities come together reveals the importance of taking speed and the varied spatio-temporality of extraction into account: while spectacular events in extractive zones sometimes provoke immediate popular responses, the temporally protracted pre-extraction periods of potential and possibility in spatially disparate communities (i.e., the particular future-building characteristic of the pre-life of extraction) can re-direct community anxiety while fostering (unobtainable) anticipations of potential enrichment. Meanwhile, leaked internal documents from within the oil consortium reveal intentional attempts to 'buy time' and defer discontent from transnational NGO networks by lengthening or delaying discussions. In this context, resistance to extraction is better conceptualized as 'slow dissent', as the slowly unfolding recognition of the ecological and socio-economic changes escalates progressively.

Securing the Volume: Nepal's Water for the People's Investment?

Authors: Matthäus Rest (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History) email
Austin Lord (Cornell University) email
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Short abstract

Despite extreme seasonality of water and a chronic shortage of electricity, Nepal's rivers function as foundation of an imagined "hydropower nation" whose citizens will become wealthy from their shares in export-oriented dams. China and India are simultaneously trying to secure those rivers' volumes

Long abstract

Water in Nepal is highly seasonal: 50% of the annual precipitation falls on just 15 days while there is hardly any rain at all between October and April.  This has severe ramifications on Nepal's energy generation as it relies heavily on hydropower. Therefore, while some of the run-of-the-river projects produce more energy than the transmission lines can carry during monsoon, in winter Nepal has to import large quantities of electricity from India. Only with the recent completion of a major new transborder transmission line a decade of daily scheduled brown-outs (with up to 14 hours of power cut on winter days) has come to a close. Yet for some years now, a substantial part of the political and economic elites have been collectively engaged in the construction of a vision for the future of Nepal that denies all of these fluid complexities. Instead, in this telling, water and gradient are the ingredients for future wealth through the export of electricity. Every drop of water that leaves the country's borders without producing hydroelectricity is imagined as wasted. Out of this rationale, we argue, emerges a double movement of securing these volumes: on the one hand the attempt to secure the potential physical sites for hydropower projects; on the other hand the effort to securitize the financial assets necessary to develop them. And with the high interest of both India and China in developing Nepal's rivers, their volumes turn into complicated flows of territoriality.

Matters of Conspiracy: Oil Prospects, Geological Knowledge, and Temporality in Turkey

Author: Zeynep Oguz (The Graduate Center, CUNY) email
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Short abstract

Tracing the material and symbolic life of abandoned oil wells, geological knowledge, and state practices, this paper examines the political futures and pasts about national sovereignty that conspiracy theories around oil discovery and abundance generate in Turkey today.

Long abstract

Following the material and symbolic life of abandoned oil wells in southeast Turkey, this paper examines the ways in which prospects and/or failures of economic oil discovery generate new speculative pasts and futures. According to a widespread conspiracy theory today, in the year 2023 - the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey -, the Treaty of Lausanne that internationally recognized the establishment of Turkey in 1923 will expire and Turkey's modern borders become obsolete. Those who believe in the theory claim that the Treaty of Lausanne included secret clauses that up to this day, prevented the Turkish state from having full sovereignty over its underground resources and thereby extracting its abundant oil reserves. In this paper, I trace the political projects attached to the year 2023, which is both the alleged expiration day of Lausanne and a highly significant date for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP has set 2023 as the year in which a set of ambitious economic goals will come to fruition and Turkey will become an economic powerhouse, simultaneously mobilizing it as a temporal device of historical revisionism. This paper examines the ways that geological knowledge and non-knowledge about the underground fuel these sovereign futures and pasts in Turkey today. In doing so, this paper not only shifts attention towards the materiality of conspiracy theories, but also highlights the ways in which state power and politics of temporality are increasingly imbued with earthly matters in our political present.

'The gold is gone': techniques, generativity and present-ism in the afterlife of a gold rush

Author: Rosalie Allain (University College London) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores temporal dynamics that have arisen in the aftermath of a gold rush in eastern Cameroon. Divergent temporalities are enacted within and between techniques of resource-making that attempt to fold the past and future into the present whilst articulating imaginings of generativity.

Long abstract

This paper proposes an account of artisanal gold mining in eastern Cameroon and the temporal experiences and materialities that emerge from the recent arrival and departure of Chinese mechanised mining companies. Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic research with Gbaya mining communities, I analyse how the ensuing gold rush and radical depletion of the landscape's gold stocks have transformed a remote border region into a space of rapid socio-economic change, where the Gbaya continue using informal and makeshift mining practices to extract ever smaller quantities of gold left in the wake of the Chinese whilst declaring that "the gold is gone".

Through a focus on the materiality of gold extraction, this paper considers how divergent temporalities are enacted in and transformed within technical processes of resource making. It shows how the future end of gold is brought into the present, quickened through the continued extraction of residual gold, which mobilises the vitality of the past through cyclical techniques of repetition and mimicry. In the afterlife of gold, complex temporalities are technically layered and folded into a constant 'present-ism'.

I argue that the shift from material abundance to resource scarcity has created a radical sense of discontinuity and put into motion new and conflicting temporal dynamics between everyday practices of subsistence. The temporal rhythms, cycles and scales of cultivation, hunting and artisanal mining articulate points of cosmological convergence and divergence that reveal underlying (traditional and emerging) imaginings and desires surrounding understandings of the generativity, luck and value of gold.

Making the Individual in a Papua New Guinea Oil Economy

Author: Emma Gilberthorpe (University of East Anglia) email
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Short abstract

I identify the social costs of extraction in Papua New Guinea's Kutubu Oil Project through an examination of how the capitalist discourse accompanying the transformation of nature into a resource for development diminishes egalitarian principles whilst creating instability and fragmentation.

Long abstract

In this paper I will discuss the relationship between the resource (oil), dominant capitalist discourse and the emergence of individualism in Papua New Guinea. I show how this relationship typifies development processes where the capitalist economic system facilitates individual economic self-interest, impeding (established) social cohesion rather than facilitating 'sustainable' environments. I am concerned with how individual pursuit amongst the Fasu, hosts to Papua New Guinea's Kutubu Oil Project, is altered when new meanings and values are attributed to daily life. Formal leadership, structured types of representation, capital generation, private property ownership, and all-purpose cash, are just some examples of the types of discourse an oil economy (and its interwoven politics) imposes. I identify the social costs of extraction through an examination of how emerging market relations based on oil royalties diminish egalitarian principles and alter individual agency and boundaries of practice. I argue that the attenuated form of personal gain encouraged by the type of capitalist competitive market individualism promoted in resource environments can create instability and fragmentation, a 'footprint' that populations are left to deal with once the resource is left in its natural state.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.