Things that matter: resource curse, production-sharing agreements, and the spectacle of FDI in post-Soviet Kazakhstan
(University of Calgary)
Oil is always prone to produce drama and spectacles: in exerting power and disguising abuse, oil exporters and importers have been routinely producing both. However, the most skillful of all in that business are those who control the flow of 'black gold' on the ground: oil multinational corporations. By installing secure industrial sites, they not only alter physical space; the imageries they create come to define the way the locality - its environment, culture, and society - are perceived from the outside; who the local actors are and how they should act upon the reconfigured realities. The assessment of industrial practice thus inevitably involves the unpacking of relations of power embedded in discourses on 'development,' 'market economy,' 'resource curse,' and 'transparency,' the essential tools of Western domination in the post-colonial era. In this paper, I try to reposition the oil multinationals in relation to those power-laden discourses and argue about whether they are conducive to 'good governance', and whether their goals and strategies are adequate for promoting sustainable development, market economy and democracy in post-Soviet Kazakhstan.
Engaging resources: anthropological perspectives on the formation and contestation of natural resource environments