American Ethnologist

Commentary: The corporation, oil, and the financialization of risk



Hannah Appel's notion of “modularity” in her analysis of contemporary transnational oil operations exquisitely captures the work required to create the illusion that petroleum production is removed from and uncompromised by local entanglements. Her study belies the notion (peddled by the industry) that the extraction of crude oil is a technoscientific wonder detached from disruptive inequalities and tumultuous political conditions that too frequently haunt places where oil development occurs. In this commentary, I sketch two directions for further research inspired by Appel's work that could extend the disentangling calculus of corporate profit, liability, and risk. One centers on the corporate form and the other on the financialization of risk.