Oil Talk: Thinking and Retelling the Political and Cultural Economy of Oil and Gas

April 13, 2012 · 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Columbia University Business School, 142 Uris Hall

  • Hannah Appel, Post-doctoral Research Scholar with the Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

Keynote lecture with Michael Ross (UCLA), Suzana Sawyer (UC Davis), and Michael Watts (UC Berkeley)

Open to the public. No registration required.

Co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of Geography

From the editors, Michael Watts and Arthur Mason:

Any language of experience that aims to provide a telling of oil must wrestle with its material character and the techno-ontological form of its industry. During the 20th century, journalists, energy scientists, policy entrepreneurs and various other intellectual professionals strived to establish an appropriate telling of oil by managing this distance between, on the one hand, its technoontological status (Das Ding of Oil) and on the other hand, the experience, or everyday life, of oil (that is to say the panoply of ways in which oil, as a fugitive, fluid, fungible and fairy-tale commodity, appears in and enters into consciousness and everyday life). These approaches toward establishing a proper telling, a proper distance, are what we refer to collectively as Oil Talk.

When we began conceptualizing the need for a book on oil, we discovered that Oil Talk -its capacity for making sense, fashioned over the course of a century, as resulting from different types of interest- appears to us as somehow incomplete. It is as if Oil Talk is a result of an imbalanced distance to its object -a result of a large numb er of persons speaking from predictab le vantage points residing along an axis of purpose whose forms of expression predominantly favor market evolution, societal progress, high-energy civilization, and Malthusian collapse. The incompleteness of Oil Talk, despite satisfying the requirements of a broad spectrum of interests has raised for us the following question: in what way can the telling of oil b e re-formulated b y reference to new relations of distance?

Participants in Thursday and Friday workshop sessions are collab orators on the Oil Talk volume:

  • Arthur Mason, UC Berkeley
  • Elizabeth Gelb er, Columb ia University
  • Michael Ross, UCLA
  • Joseph Pratt, University of Houston
  • Hannah Appel, Columbia University
  • Leigh Johnson, University of Zurich
  • Matt Huber, Syracuse University
  • David Hughes, Rutgers University
  • Mandana Limb ert, CUNY
  • Michael Watts, UC Berkeley
  • Mona Damluji, UC Berkeley
  • Peter Hitchcock, CUNY
  • Reb ecca Golden, Tulane University
  • Jane Guyer, Johns Hopkins University
  • Saulesh Yessenova, University of Calgary
  • Sara Wylie, MIT
  • Suzanna Sawyer, UC Davis