Accepted Paper:

(Im)permanent development: the affects of value and oil speculation in Kenya  


Doris Okenwa (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

Panel Time02
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives