Life in the Time of Oil

Life in the Time of Oil

A Pipeline and Poverty in Chad
Lori Leonard
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/04/2016
Format: Hardback 7 b&w illus., 3 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-01980-6
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Life in the Time of Oil examines the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project—a partnership between global oil companies, the World Bank, and the Chadian government that was an ambitious scheme to reduce poverty in one of the poorest countries on the African continent. Key to the project was the development of a marginal set of oilfields that had only recently attracted the interest of global oil companies who were pressed to expand operations in the context of declining reserves. Drawing on more than a decade of work in Chad, Lori Leonard shows how environmental standards, grievance mechanisms, community consultation sessions, and other model policies smoothed the way for oil production, but ultimately contributed to the unraveling of the project. Leonard offers a nuanced account of the effects of the project on everyday life and the local ecology of the oilfield region as she explores the resulting tangle of ethics, expectations, and effects of oil as development.

Author Bio

Lori Leonard is International Professor and Associate Professor in Development Sociology at Cornell University.


“Lori Leonard's signature achievement in this book is that she offers an ethnographic analysis of a development project that is simultaneously an examination of oil companies and the practices of global capitalism and an account of the experience and consequences for ordinary people who are touted to be beneficiaries but in fact often end up victims.”
 — Daniel Jordan Smith, author of A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria

“Between 2000 and 2008 a hugely ambitious oil development, the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline Project, rose and dramatically fell. One of the largest private sector investments on the continent, this joint venture between a consortium of global oil companies, the World Bank, and the governments of Chad and Cameroon, was designed to deliver oil to the world market and provide a new model for accountable resource exploitation in a sector typically seen as cursed. Life in the Time of Oil charts the catastrophe, and tragic failure, of what came in the wake of first oil. Unlike so much of the resource curse literature which studiously avoids examining the actual practices of oil companies and project financiers, Lori Leonard takes us into the heart of the beast. A rich and compelling if ultimately bracing tale of imperial hubris, rough and tumble politics, and the duplicity of what passes as corporate social responsibility. An important and compelling book.”
 — Michael Watts, Professor, University of California, Berkeley

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Table of Contents

1. An Experiment in Development
2. Dead Letters
3. Becoming ‘Eligible’
4. Ties that Bind
5. In the Midst of Things
6. Footprints