Fast capitalism & slow resistance: an ethnography of dual temporalities in extraction & resistance
(University of Oxford)
Paper 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.
Paper 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.
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives