Accepted paper:

Corporate Power Tactics or the Changing of an Extractive Corporation?


Marianna Betti (University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows the changes of an oil corporation throughout years of involvement in oil extraction in an African context.It explains the way sovereignty is enacted by showing the merging of traditional tactics of extractive corporations in dealing with "disturbances", with local forces.

Paper long abstract:

Tullow Oil has been working for almost 7 years in Turkana, Kenya. The oil operations have been slowed down by financial, global-economic reasons but also by a continuous struggle between the corporation, the local pastoralists and the politicians over consensus, power and resource access. This paper shows how the corporation has changed throughout these years, not only through its approach to CSR and local involvement but also through the way it tries to understand local practices, knowledge and legacies. Tullow, in fact, has shown not only to follow standardized procedures in the field when dealing with "disturbances", but also a degree of flexibility, which has affected both the operative system and as well the culture of the corporation. This paper has two goals: first to unpack the black box traditionally given to explain the changing tactics and agendas of corporations in their forms of power-making, especially in the extractive sector operating in African context. Second,the paper asks to what extents are these common explanations or frames to understand the unfolding of decision-making performed by the corporations useful. Through the case study of Turkana, I argue that, even though an historical perspective explaining socio-political and economic background on which the corporation enacts its sovereignty should be explained, this is rather not enough. The changing of the corporation as appearing in its decision-making is also very much affected by the merging of the local forces with those of the corporation in creating new and exciting forms of a "syncretic oil complex".

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Social Anthropology
Corporate sovereignty: connections and disruptions of corporate power in Africa