University of Sussex
Gilbert, Paul Robert.pdf (3.78 MB)

Money mines: an ethnography of frontiers, capital and extractive industries in London and Bangladesh

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posted on 2023-06-09, 01:00 authored by Paul GilbertPaul Gilbert
This thesis draws on over eighteen months of multi-sited fieldwork carried out in London and Dhaka, among geologists, lawyers, fund managers, engineers, and private sector development consultants intent on securing profitable extractive opportunities in new ‘frontier’ markets, and among public intellectuals and politicians in Dhaka who oppose the development of Bangladesh’s energy resources by foreign corporations. The thesis contributes to a recently revitalized anthropological political economy and engages critically with the actor–network theory-inspired ‘social studies of finance’. By tracing ethnographically the production of extractive industry capitalism, I show that capital is not merely free–flowing or reproduced by its own inevitable logic. Rather, the movement and accumulation of capital is facilitated by distinct forms of knowledge production, such as political risk analysis and the emergent field of Corporate Diplomacy, and by historically constituted legal norms, most notably those of investor–state arbitration. Equally, I show that the calculative capacities exercised by financial analysts and fund managers have material consequences far beyond those normally considered by scholars in the social studies of finance, who tend to confine their analyses to the ‘bounded fieldsites’ provided by bank dealing rooms or stock exchange trading floors. Methodologically, this thesis defends the notion that ethnographically tracing the generation of extractive industry capitalism demands a rejection of the recent ‘post–critical’ turn in the ethnography of experts and elite groups. Ultimately, I argue that what allows extractive industry capitalism to be generated is the subordination of the sovereignty of ‘frontier’ states to the sovereignty of transnational extractive corporations. This subordination is supported by the norms of international arbitration, and is the source of the perceived ‘investment climate’ stability that ultimately allows extractive industry capitalists to attract speculative investment for resource exploration in new ‘frontiers’.


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