The main topic of the 126th NZ issue has been extensively studied for a long time, and yet it remains relevant, continuing to be the focus of an increasing number of research areas. The topic in question is oil and its role in global history. While economics and political sciences have been dealing with it for a long time, it is still relatively new to humanities. Titled “Phenomenology of Oil”, this issue does not avoid the more traditional angles, considering oil's political and economic significance and its influence on international relations, while aiming to outline the ever-widening field of discussions inspired by this energy source. It is with this in mind that we chose the issue's title, intended to demonstrate analytical possibilities of philosophy and cultural studies, poetics and art criticism, social and cultural anthropology; disciplines addressing effects produced by oil in the cultural sphere.
The opening section, Political Theory and Depolitisation Practices, is centred around a translated chapter from one of the most audacious philosophy books of the 2010s, “Cyclonopedia” by Reza Negarestani, a study of what could be termed a political theology of oil. Articles by Yoel Regev and Benjamin Bratton reconstruct a theoretical context for the form of philosophical thinking characteristic of Negarestani, as well as developing his intuitive ideas, which invest this energy substance with its own agency.
The first topical section, “Politics of Oil”, is linked to an area that, despite having been widely studied, remains of interest to researchers, who find unexpected motifs in it. Michael Ross, renowned for his research into political aspects of oil dependency, offers a broad and informative survey of various approaches existing within the notion of “oil curse”, an increasingly problematized concept. Desha Girod and Meir Walters, of Georgetown University, convincingly demonstrate that institutional consequences typically faced by oil-rich countries with a colonial heritage depend on the specifics of imperial policies implemented on their territories before the discovery of oil resources. Eugene Rogan, a professor at Oxford University, tells a fascinating story of oil as a factor in Middle Eastern politics. Maria Snegovaya describes how oil prices are correlated to the level of aggression observed in Russia's foreign policy, placing this pattern within the traditional studies of oil countries.
In their article printed in Culture of Politics, Alexander Etkind and Ilya Yablokov analyse the way certain members of Russia's political elite and Kremlin analytics reacted to the decrease in oil prices over the past decade, evoking conspiracy theories. Alexander Rubtsov's “Oil-Producing Civilisation: Notion Systems and the Scale of Disaster” largely picks up where the preceding piece left off, attempting to single out some sociocultural constants behind the state and society structurally dependent on oil production and trade.
Olga Breininger's “The Sociotechnical Imaginary Going Bust: Chechnya as a «Second Kuwait»” discusses one of the factors that inspired the Chechen leaders' attempts to build Ichkeria, a republic independent of the Russian Federation, in the 1990s.
The American anthropologist Douglas Rogers in his foundational article “Petrobarter: Oil, Inequality, and the Political Imaginary in and after the Cold War” describes an alternative exchange model which, unlike classical capitalist economic models, is based on oil rather than money.
The second topical section, “Poetics of Oil”, focuses on a recently emerged research field, the so-called petroculture. Editor Ilya Kalinin in “Russian Petropoetics: Literary Byproducts of Oil” looks to establish the analytical productivity of the notion of petropoetics, a tool with which to describe stable forms of artistic reflections on oil. A piece by Maria Engström talks about contemporary Russian art turning to oil as a subject to mythologise or critique. Zhanna Nikolaeva summarises the criminal history of oil in Italy with its tragic apogee, the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was working on an eponymous novel at the time.
Politics of Culture offers “Extraction Ontology and Abstract Industry: Three War Machines” by Oksana Timofeeva, a piece taking Negarеstani's philosophical intuition further and applying it to post-Soviet circumstances. The issue concludes with Alexei Levinson's Sociological Lyrics, which covers the protests that took place in Moscow in the summer of 2019 over the city council elections, as well as the New Books section.
The issue concludes with Alexei Levinson's Sociological Lyrics, which covers the protests that took place in Moscow in the summer of 2019 over the city council elections, as well as the New Books section.