Contemporary life is founded on oil – a cheap, accessible, and rich source of energy that has shaped cities and manufacturing economies at the same time that it has increased mobility, global trade, and environmental devastation. Despite oil’s essential role, full recognition of its social and cultural significance has only become a prominent feature of everyday debate and discussion in the early twenty-first century.
Presenting a multifaceted analysis of the cultural, social, and political claims and assumptions that guide how we think and talk about oil, Petrocultures maps the complex and often contradictory ways in which oil has influenced the public’s imagination around the world. This collection of essays shows that oil’s vast network of social and historical narratives and the processes that enable its extraction are what characterize its importance, and that its circulation through this immense web of relations forms worldwide experiences and expectations. Contributors’ essays investigate the discourses surrounding oil in contemporary culture while advancing and configuring new ways to discuss the cultural ecosystem that it has created.
A window into the social role of oil, Petrocultures also contemplates what it would mean if human life were no longer deeply shaped by the consumption of fossil fuels.