This panel explores the actors and institutions that enable resource extraction. It seeks to move beyond a false binary between resistance and legitimisation and therefore welcomes papers that analyse these actors and which take seriously the potential and dangers of corporate engagement.
This panel explores the relationship between extractive resources and developmental states by focusing on the people, processes and discourses that legitimate and enable resource extraction. Many scholars study the actors and institutions that critique and resist resource extraction, examining community organizations, INGOs and advocacy networks. By contrast, there is little analysis of the institutions, actors and structures that assist extractive projects in commencing and continuing. Environmental Impact Assessors, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practitioners and local pro-mining bodies are instead merely critiqued for enabling resource extraction, with their own moral codes and sources of legitimacy frequently disregarded in what are otherwise nuanced anthropological studies.
This lack of analysis encourages seeing a dichotomy amongst those involved in resource extraction. Anthropologists sit on both sides of this duality; they are employed by both those who resist extractive industries, and those that enable extractors to engage with states and local peoples. Individual anthropologists are frequently an extractive project's passionate advocate or fiercest critique. In contrast, local peoples' responses to resource extraction are often strongly ambivalent and there is substantial overlap between the individuals and organizations who resist and enable extractive enterprise. This panel seeks to move beyond a false binary between resistance and legitimisation, exploring the people, organizations and institutions who interact with the extractive industry and shape its relationship with state. It welcomes papers that unpack these actors' aspirations, desires and concerns and which take seriously the potentials and pitfalls of engaging with corporations to achieve the goals of communities and nations.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Legitimate extraction and the mythology of Corporate Social Responsibility
This paper takes a critical look at the ways in which, in response to external pressures and demands, resource extraction companies use the instruments of CSR to create a particular kind of business mythology and a corporate world in which they are able to claim "good corporate citizenship".
The discourse of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) forces companies to acknowledge their external impacts and to recognise their duty to account for these. However, despite a great wealth of analyses on the topic, little about CSR remains uncontested. The concept has been widely critiqued as a powerful means of self-regulation that both avoids external controls and simply measures its own measurements, with academics and practitioners pointing to 'a gap between the stated intentions of business leaders and their actual behaviour and impact in the real world' (Frynas, 2005).
This paper looks at ways in which resource extraction companies use the instruments of CSR to create for themselves a corporate world in which they are able legitimize extraction and claim "good corporate citizenship". It presents CSR as an intrinsically relational concept and argues that companies use carefully structured stories and measurements of the extent and the quality of their relations to strategically manage the ways in which they acknowledge and act on their economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic social responsibilities. Looking at the Frieda River Project in PNG, the paper argues that this corporate re-invention is enabled by a socio-political exercise in creating labels and indicators and a particular form of business mythology which shares certain characteristics with Melanesian tumbuna stories. It shows that, at Frieda, the widely conceived sustainability performance of the company developing the project is continuously assessed and re-assessed not against technocratic indicators, but on the basis of quality and efficacy relations which it facilitates and mobilises.
The role of sustainability standards in legitimating mining companies' social performance
The role of sustainability standards in legitimating responsible mineral production is explored, revealing social performance discourses in light of changing expectations by industry stakeholders.
Voluntary sustainability standards have become major institutional actors in legitimizing businesses. Their emergence has skyrocketed since the 1990s, leading also in the mining industry to more than 20 initiatives formulating compliance requirements for minerals production. Six international initiatives on sustainability in the mining industry are currently about to set up their operations.
Scholars in political science and international relations have traditionally investigated the emergence of private actors in arenas of global governance, but why and how initiatives emerge in a crowded space has been neglected in this field. For this reason, a content analysis of a new private sustainability standard was conducted in comparison with previously applied standards in the mining industry. The results indicate that the promulgated best practices by new standard actors constitute a shift in underlying assumptions and a corresponding changing emphasis of social performance discourses. The comparative analysis highlights further how initiatives differ in their emphasis on performance assumptions and discourses by which business operations are legitimized. Interviews with 20 industry stakeholders of the new private sustainability standard provide further nuanced insights into changing expectations about the legitimating role of actors and institutions.
The paper concludes with further research needs, highlighting the potential for interesting ethnographic studies to improve our understanding of sustainability initiative effectiveness and related industry performance.
Who is 'from the community' here?
This paper focusing on the people, processes and discourses that claim to 'speak for' national and community interests in Africa, particularly in response to resource extraction.
This paper focusing on the people, processes and discourses that claim to 'speak for' national and community interests in Africa, particularly in response to resource extraction. In response to scepticism as the representativeness of electoral politics, both mining companies and the international NGOs that oppose or engage them make claims to be acting in the communities' best interests and frequently engage 'community representatives'. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Zambia's north western province and on its copperbelt this paper explores those whose who claim to speak on behalf of Zambia and its communities. It explores local MPs, international NGOs and their local partners, mine controlled Corporate Social Responsibility projects and urban based taxation and extraction think tanks. The paper argues that all these actors' claims to representation are problematic, but that this does not mean they should be discounted. Rather I propose a topology of representative legitimacy for environments where electoral representation cannot serve as the only legitimate form of 'speaking for'.
Kenya's new oil: rethinking brokers, translators and mediators
The extractives industry involves an intricate network of organisations and actors with diverse objectives for whom the sector present opportunities, progress or exploitation. This paper will explore the relationship between heterogeneous entities in Kenya's new oil sector and their motivations.
When Kenya discovered oil in 2012, the "resource curse" emerged as a dominant national discourse. Concerns as to whether Kenya will end up like Nigeria where oil has stimulated more conflict and poverty than prosperity were at heart of many debates. What this means is that the responsibility for the success or failure of the budding sector was placed at the feet of the triad i.e. the state, oil companies and community organisations or NGOs based on the assumption that each of these entities have different moral economies that influence their activities and outcomes.
This paper aims to explore the symbiotic relationship between actors and organisations involved in resource extraction processes and their motivations. Based on 13 months ethnographic fieldwork in Kenya's Turkana County, the hub of oil exploration, the paper will go beyond institutional operations and strategies within existing structures of resource extraction to the materialities that continue to influence and substantiate the interests of organisations and actors, positively and otherwise.
In Turkana for instance, many of those that live around the oil wells personify state institutions and private companies and do not consider these institutions as abstract entities. For them, the state is neither an invisible regulator nor the company an ideational body but a group of actors driven by specific interests that compliment and contradict with the people they represent.
The relevance of this paper can be situated within anthropological perspectives on development, natural resource extraction and global processes.
“I am not a politician”: the cry of the company when the state ceases to exist
In 2016, Oil Search took over the running of the entire provincial health system of Hela Province, home to the giant PNG LNG project. While the locals welcome and support this move, it has done nothing to quell their discontent over the development failings of the PNG LNG project, for which they continue to blame the state.
In April 2016, the health system of Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province was taken over by Oil Search Pty Ltd, installing the Oil Search General Manager, Peter Botton, as chair of the Tari hospital board. This transition made blatant the reality of state absence in the province, and underlined the inability and unwillingness of the state to run its own affairs, even in one of the most resource-rich parts of the country. In one respect, Oil Search’s move can be read as being designed to ensure its social licence to operate in its field of oil and gas extraction. Oil Search’s involvement, however, would not be possible without the express support of the local community and local leaders, who provide their support with enthusiasm and the thorough embrace of Oil Search’s role. Yet simultaneously, these local leaders, along with the entire community, are scathing in their criticism of the development failings of the PNG LNG project that is the creation of Oil Search and its project partner, ExxonMobil. Oil Search’s role in developing Hela’s health system has not prevented continuing threats to the existence of the PNG LNG project, while blame for its development failings continue to be directed towards the state. The perception of Oil Search as benevolent state actor only serves to highlight the neglectful role played by the actual state, and its role in exploiting the people of Hela for their gas reserves.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.