Pauline Destrée

Project Title

Energy Prosperity in Ghana: oil extraction and energy futures in an emerging African petrostate

Current Status

Pauline will join the project in April 2019, and will be conducting 12-14 months of fieldwork in Takoradi, Ghana from April 2019 to June 2020.

Project Duration

April 2019-March 2022

Project Description

Pauline’s three-year postdoctoral research project looks at the value of oil and alternative renewable energy sources in Ghana, a country that positions itself as an energy frontier for rethinking the relationship between hydrocarbon dependency and more sustainable energy futures in a context of environmental crisis. The project explores what “energy prosperity” might mean in an emerging petrostate that stands at the very forefront of experiencing some of the most severe consequences of climate change, yet also appears as one of the most exciting site to devise alternative energy futures. The main objectives of the study are:

  1. To explore the values and imaginations of oil and other forms of energy for people involved in the downstream and service sectors of the oil industry in Takoradi, Ghana’s new “Oil City” in the Western Region;
  2. To understand and situate the recent production of oil in a longer history of resource extraction, extraversion and colonialism;
  3. To examine how oil production and renewable energy projects in the country frame contradictory and complex “energy futures” that inform wider theories of global sustainability in a context of climate change and environmental concern.

The research involves 12-14 months of fieldwork in Takoradi and Accra, including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, life histories, archival research, and audio-visual storytelling. This research is part of the larger Energy Ethics project led by Dr Mette High in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews. The project is funded by the European Research Council and follows a strict data protection policy.

Researcher Background

This project builds on Pauline’s previous PhD research on the politics of electricity in Accra and the popular imagination of infrastructure during “Dumsor” (the energy crisis of 2014-2016), based on long-term fieldwork in Ghana including a research position at the National Electricity Company. She holds a PhD from UCL in Anthropology, a Master’s from the University of Oxford in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, and a Bachelor’s degree from UCL in Anthropology. Her research interests include the material culture of resources and infrastructure, political anthropology, postcolonial theory, race, popular culture, and urban Africa.

She has a particular commitment to integrating creative writing and visual arts into her ethnographic practice, and to reaching outside academia for collaborative forms of thinking and knowledge-making.