Archaeology of Oil Production: A Conclusion and Some Notes (Part 4)

I finally finished a draft of my piece on the archaeology of oil production. It’s still a bit rough, but I’m happy enough with it over all and have a few months to tidy it up.

But if you can’t wait, here’s the intro, part 2, and part 3.

Here’s my concluding paragraph. As I tidy the paper up, I’ll post the completed thing later in the spring.

The archaeology of the oil production demands an attention to the liquidity of both oil itself and the networks of labor, financial capital, and communication that make oil valuable in the contemporary world. As a result, the archaeology of oil production involves documenting both individuals sites and recognizing their places within expansive petroleumscapes. These petroleumscapes not only constitute the spatial and material aspects of oil production and consumption, but also the social, technological, economic, and political institutions that rely upon and make oil production possible. This invariably requires that we recognize oil production as a historically constituted component of the modern world. In doing so, archaeologists have the opportunity to break down the temporal domination of the present and to reveal how even the massively destructive powers of globalized, supermodernity possesses historical contingency. By pulling apart the foreshortened experience of booms and busts, emphasizing the ephemeral and occluded traces of earlier phases of the present, and recognizing the sometimes forcible assertion of pasts that will not succumb to the urgency of supermodernity, an archaeology of oil production offers a distinct critical perspective on the modern world.

I did get a chance to read some new stuff in relation to this work that I hadn’t read before.

I think I’ve mentioned Carola Hein’s edited book Petroleumscapes which is open access volume from Routledge. 

I’ve also enjoyed Rachael Havrelock’s work on oil, especially her article, “The Ancient Past that Oil Built” from Bible & Critical Theory 11.2 (2015). She draws on Erin Runion’s The Babylon Complex: Theopolitical Fantasies of War, Sex, and Sovereignty (Fordham 2014) which I’ve just read enough of to put on my reading list.

I’ve also enjoyed James Ferguson’s “Seeing Like an Oil Company: Space, Security, and Global Capital in Neoliberal AfricaAmerican Anthropologist 107.3 (2005) and Scott MacEachern, “Seeing like an oil company’s CHM programme: Exxon and archaeology on the Chad Export ProjectJournal of Social Archaeology 10.3 (2010).

This work has also led me to read (albeit superficially) Katayoun Shafiee’s Machineries of Oil: An Infrastructural History of BP in Iran (MIT 2018), which is open access and Lori Leonard’s Life in the Time of Oil: A Pipeline and Poverty in Chad (Indiana 2016).

Finally, I read Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (Re.press 2008) and a companion cypher, Leper Creativity: Cyclonopedia Symposium edited by Edward Keller, Nicola Masciandaro, and Eugene Thacker from Punctum Books. As you might guess, it’s also open access.

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