The Social Natures of Crude Oil (APA4127.01)

David Bond

Crude oil keeps the contemporary in motion. This basic fact has become as bland a platitude as it is an unexamined process. From plastic bags to electricity, from synthetic fertilizers to the passenger plane, from heat for our homes to fuel for our cars, our world is cultivated, packaged, transported, and consumed in the general momentum of hydrocarbon expenditures. These well-worn facts are so ingrained in our everyday lives that they rarely rise to the level of sustained scrutiny. This seminar aims to change that. Over the course the semester, we will work out a more deliberate, a more vivid, and a more critical anthropology of crude oil. This means taking what crude oil does as seriously as what is done with crude oil. In this course, we will learn about the basic shape of crude oils formation, refinement, and combustion. We will read different perspectives on hydrocarbon development, hearing from company workers, environmental scientists, and impacted local communities. And we will reflect more critically on the social worlds of crude oil: the tangle and tenure of hydrocarbon infrastructure, the ways and means of hydrocarbon pollution, and the technical domains of knowledge and governance authorized by hydrocarbon development like the economy and the environment. The question of what kind of public action has been historically possible around crude oil and what kind of public action might be required today will guide our discussions.

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor.
Credits: 4
T 4:10pm - 6:00pm; F 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency:
This course is categorized as Environment, Four Credit, 4000, Advancement of Public Action, anthropology, David Bond, All courses.