P19
Political subjectivities in resource-rich authoritarian countries

Convenors:
Jon Schubert (Brunel University London)
Tristam Barrett (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Location:
Quincentenary Building, Seminar Room
Start time:
20 June, 2014 at 14:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

Comparative ethnographic studies of popular engagements with "the political" in the hydrocarbon extracting states of Southern and Equatorial Africa and Central Asia.

Long abstract:

As scholarship on hydrocarbon states shows, not all wealthy nations make for healthy publics. The statecraft of newly fledged petro-states affirms that authoritarianism is emerging as a norm despite two decades of democratization. We know of the "menu of manipulation" (rigged elections, unfree press, etc.) and the disappointed expectations of civil society, oppositional and human rights movements, but how does living in a petro-state inform the subjectivities of its inhabitants? This panel brings together ethnographic case studies from Southern and Equatorial Africa and former Soviet Central Asia to investigate the political subjectivities of citizens of resource-rich authoritarian countries and understand the scope for political agency when classical avenues (parliamentary politics, civic engagement, etc.) are extremely restricted. How does oil affect the cultural construal of political authority, value, and everyday life? How do citizens participate in the political imaginaries that sustain these states? Western dependency on oil-related investments and the failure of "international democracy assistance" make this a timely question for scholars. Equally, the political compromise that rested on socialist, anti-colonial and revolutionary imaginings of authority and legitimacy has come to its limits, and a younger, educated generation is emerging that is less content with the status quo. In this context, much may be gained by looking at the mundane, everyday experience of social groups that are not politically active, but will ultimately drive economic and political change. We especially welcome submissions on Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Mozambique, as well as hydrocarbon producing countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia.