In this lecture, I revisit capitalist time from the vantage of a protracted pause in the development of oil resources in São Tomé and Príncipe (STP), a micro-island state in the African Atlantic. Despite more than two decades of petroleum exploration in the country’s maritime territory, STP has yet to see any commercial oil extraction. My fieldwork companions’ and friends’ initial thrill about petroleum prospects has given way to doubt, disillusionment, and weariness. How does the future figure in such moments of deferral and obstruction? I explore the pause in terms of the ethical and affective conundrums presented by oil’s futurity, articulated the state, corporations, third-sector actors, and ordinary citizens. They give rise to specific regimes of living, none of which is absolute, associated with a set of interlocking temporal orientations (speculation, anticipation, and waiting) toward a future with oil. The pause thus prompts me to interrogate more orthodox social scientific studies of resource development, which tend to presume the successful commodification of resources, and to rethink established models of capitalist time, more broadly, which take its future-orientation, expansiveness, and acceleration for granted. In contrast, this lecture seeks to unpack the complexities of a process stymied by the socio-material constraints of a resource whose precise geological contours and economic value are relatively opaque.
Source and further information: Max Planck Institure for Social Anthropology, Link (6 June 2019)
Dr. Gisa Weszkalnys (London School of Economics)
Gisa Weszkalnys specializes in the ethnographic study of natural resources, specifically oil in Africa. In the past, she has carried out intensive research on the politics of urban planning, resulting in the monograph Berlin, Alexanderplatz: Transforming Place in a Unified Germany (Berghahn, 2010) and in an edited volume Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World (ed. with Simone Abram, Berghahn 2013). She also worked on interdisciplinary research policy and practice in Germany, the UK, and the US.