Accepted Paper:

Making the individual in a Papua New Guinea oil economy  


Emma Gilberthorpe (University of East Anglia)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

Panel Time02
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives