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Accepted Paper:

They have petroleum on their hands! Philanthropic initiatives, petrotoxicity and the making of political disengagement in Los Angeles, 1970-2023  
Elodie Edwards-Grossi (Université Paris Dauphine-PSL)

Paper short abstract:

Relying on archival documents pertaining to industrial history and oral history interviews, the paper uncovers the ways economic dependence on the oil refineries in Los Angeles impedes citizens’ ability to speak up regarding the environmental injustices they are confronted with, on a daily basis.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the production of polluted spaces in Wilmington, which is predominantly a minority and socially disadvantaged neighborhood in South Los Angeles. Relying on archival documents pertaining to industrial history in the area and oral history interviews with residents, local business owners, teachers, and homeowners which were collected in Los Angeles in 2022, the paper uncovers the ways economic dependence on the oil refineries impedes citizens’ ability to speak up and become politically active regarding the environmental injustices they are confronted with, on a daily basis. It looks at the ways oil refineries in the area (among them Phillips 66, Valero, Texaco, etc.) seek to engage with the public through philanthropic actions to build for themselves a good PR image, and how this affects the ways people in Wilmington perceive these industries. By sponsoring events at the local schools and providing internships to the local students, refineries manage to capitalize on the residents’ sense of pride and gratefulness, thus impacting their most intimate experiences, as well as their past, present and future academic and economic endeavors. Building on works about the politics of ignorance and environmental risk, the paper studies how specific territories and landscapes, especially waterfront territories such as Wilmington have been sacrificed to petrotoxicity, in the context of a city like Los Angeles, which has often been referred to as the epitome of individualism and capitalist expansion.

Panel Ene07
The Petroleum Century and the Transformation of Global Landscapes
  Session 2 Thursday 22 August, 2024, -