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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Historical Studies (CHS) AFREXTRACT

Call for Papers 'Oil, Environment, and Lifeworlds in the Niger Delta: Environmental History Approaches'

10 January 2024

Dates: 11-12 July 2024
Location: Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Submission deadline: 26 January 2024

Oil drilling has a long history in the Niger Delta. After oil was discovered in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in 1956, the petroleum industry has transformed environments and lifeworlds across the Niger Delta. Dead fish in the rivers after an oil spill, devastated agricultural fields, militant activism, but also practices of kpofire are all part of this environmental history.

Anthropologists, historians, geographers, and political scientists have produced excellent studies of oil in the Niger Delta, focusing on issues of labour, economic change, politics, cultural expression, and much more (e.g. Watts, 2008; Adunbi, 2015; Agbonifo, 2018). Building on the rich scholarship on oil spills, gas flaring, and environmental protest movements, this conference centres on how people have learned to live with the environmental transformations induced by petroleum extraction in the Niger Delta. How did those living around oil wells and pipelines make sense of suffocating air pollution from gas flares and oil spills and the resultant prevalence of chronic respiratory and carcinogenic diseases? Why did some people protest through NGOs and litigations, and some through indigenous means, while others responded by shifting their gardens and livelihoods elsewhere to avoid toxicity?

This conference is organised within the framework of the European Research Council funded project AFREXTRACT, ‘Environmental Histories of Resource Extraction in Africa: Understanding Cultural and Political Responses to Environmental Transformation’. We are interested to bring together interdisciplinary scholars, artists, and activists interested in questions of environmental change, lived experiences, cultural expressions, and political responses working on oil extraction in the Niger Delta.

Contributions might address some of the following questions:

  • How can we document lived experiences of environmental transformation and forms of ‘slow violence’ in research on the Niger Delta (Nixon, 2013)?
  • Which methodologies are suitable to studying lived experiences of environmental change (e.g. oral history, literary analysis, ecomusicology, political ecology)? What are the potentials and limitations of these methodologies?
  • How do people make sense of environmental transformation through cultural expression (music, literature, poems, art)?
  • In terms of political responses, how can we document ‘varieties of environmentalism’ (Guha and Martinez-Alier, 1997) that go beyond a binary between protest and resignation?
  • Which questions do decolonial approaches to the environmental humanities in the Niger Delta raise?

We explicitly welcome contributions that go beyond these questions and speak to the conference from a pluralistic perspective along the following sub-themes:

  • Historical perspectives on oil and environmental transformations in the Niger Delta
  • Methodological concepts and challenges in environmental history research
  • Living with oil: Lifeworlds of oil and environmental transformation in the Niger Delta
  • Adaptation practices in response to oil pollution in the Niger Delta
  • Forms of environmental protest in the Niger Delta
  • Indigenous knowledge systems and cultural responses to oil extraction in the Niger Delta
  • Artistic interrogations of oil and the Niger Delta environment
  • Philosophy, ethics, and oil resource management
  • Culture, performance, and environmental justice
  • Oil, gender, and environmental security
  • The state and oil governance in Nigeria
  • Oil extraction and climate change in the Niger Delta
  • Oil futures: Oil theft, artisanal refining, and emerging trends in oil extraction

Please send in an abstract of max. 250 words, to: afrextract by Friday 26 January, 2024 if you are interested in presenting at the conference. We will inform you by mid-February 2024 whether your abstract has been selected.

This conference will be held on 11-12 July, 2024 at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria (exact location t.b.c.). This conference receives organisational support from the University of Port Harcourt, Faculty of Humanities. Participants should cover their own travel costs to/from Port Harcourt.

Last modified:10 January 2024 4.11 p.m.

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