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Dr Gisa Weszkalnys

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Gisa Weszkalnys

Gisa Weszkalnys specializes in the ethnographic study of natural resources, specifically oil in Africa. In the past, she has carried out intensive research on the politics of urban planning, resulting in the monograph Berlin, Alexanderplatz: Transforming Place in a Unified Germany (Berghahn, 2010) and in an edited volume Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World (ed. with Simone Abram, Berghahn 2013). She also worked on interdisciplinary research policy and practice in Germany, the UK, and the US.

Gisa’s most recent research explores expectations and fears regarding future oil extraction in São Tomé and Príncipe, a former Portuguese colony and independent island state in the African Atlantic. Through ethnographic fieldwork in 2007, Gisa has followed the widespread speculations regarding offshore oil reserves in STP’s maritime territory, and the kind of anticipatory politics they have triggered, including World Bank governance programmes and NGO campaigns aimed at preventing a ‘resource curse’. Gisa’s work critically examines expectations of oil as a future source of wealth and prosperity but also as a possible harbinger social conflict, which echo contemporary notions of African countries as abundant but perilous and corrupt resource providers. It interrogates the incomplete efforts to control people’s hopes (and disappointment) regarding oil, and shows how local apprehensions of resource extraction articulate with colonial and post-colonial hopes of socio-economic change. Gisa has used ethnographic methods and anthropological theory to re-think problems that have been the mainstay of economists and political scientists. Simultaneously, her research sheds new light on issues that have been at the forefront of economic anthropology and anthropological studies of Africa in recent years, including citizenship, economic subjectivity, wealth, fortune and misfortune, and connects them to broader social theoretical debates on temporality and materiality. Gisa is now working on a book manuscript provisionally entitled Hope and Oil: An Ethnography of Speculation and Absence.

This research has received funding from the British Academy and the John Fell OUP Research Fund, and was further developed during a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2012-13). In April 2012, Gisa co-convened with Tanya Richardson (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada) a successful international workshop Engaging Resources: New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Gisa has also carried out consultancy research in the field of natural resources and development working, for example, with UNDP in São Tomé and Príncipe and with the Open Society Institute in Angola.

Selected Publications

2014. Resource Materialities: New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments (special issue ed. with T. Richardson), Anthropological Quarterly 87(1) [includes Resource Materialities (with Tanya Richardson, pp.5-30].Includes introduction: “Resource Materialities” (with Tanya Richardson),

2014. Anticipating Oil: The Temporal Politics of a Disaster Yet To Come. The Sociological Review 62: S1: 211-235 (also published as chapter of the Sociological Review Monograph Disasters and Politics: Materials, Preparedness, Governance, ed. by Manuel Tironi, Israel Rodríguez-Giralt, Michael Guggenheim. Wiley-Blackwell.)

2013. Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World (ed. with Simone Abram), Berghahn Books: Oxford and New York. [Includes: “Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World. An Introduction” (with Simone Abram)]

2013. Multiple Environments: Accountability, Integration, Ontology (with Andrew Barry), in Andrew Barry and Georgina Born (eds), Interdisciplinarity: Reconfigurations of the Social and Natural Sciences, pp.178-208. Routledge: London and New York.

2013. “Oil’s Magic: Materiality and Contestation”, in Sarah Strauss, Stephanie Rupp and Thomas Love (eds), Cultures of Energy: Anthropological Perspectives on Powering the Planet, pp.267-283. Left Coast Press: Walnut Creek, CA.

2011. “Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World” (Theme Issue) (ed. with Simone Abram), Focaal 61. [includes introduction “Anthropologies of Planning: Temporality, Imagination, and Ethnography” (with Simone Abram), pp.3-18].

2011. “Cursed Resources, or Articulations of Economic Theory in the Gulf of Guinea”, Economy and Society 40(3): 345-372.

2010. Berlin, Alexanderplatz: Transforming Place in a Unified Germany, Berghahn Books: Oxford and New York.

2010. “A Citizenly Engagement with Place”, in A. Färber (ed.) Stoffwechsel Berlin. Urbane Präsenzen und Repräsentationen, Berliner Blätter (Berlin: Panama Verlag), Vol. 53: 112-127.

2010. “Re-conceiving the resource curse and the role of anthropology”, Suomen Antropologi (Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Association) 35(1): 87-90.

2009. “The Curse of Oil in the Gulf of Guinea: A view from São Tomé and Príncipe (Review Article)”, African Affairs 108(433): 679-689.

2009. “Príncipe Eclipsed: Commemorating the confirmation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity”, Anthropology Today 25(5): 8-12.

2008. “Logics of Interdisciplinarity” (with Andrew Barry and Georgina Born), Economy and Society 37(1): 20-49.

2008. “A Robust Square: youth work, planning and the making of public space in contemporary Berlin”, City and Society, 20(2): 251-274.

2008. “Hope and Oil: expectations in São Tomé e Príncipe”, Review of African Political Economy, 35(3): 473-482.

2007. “The Disintegration of a Socialist Exemplar: discourses on urban disorder in Alexanderplatz, Berlin”, Space and Culture 10(2): 207-230.



Berlin, Alexanderplatz –
winter 2001

Seminar on local content in the oil industry

Seminar on “Local Content” in
the oil industry, São Tomé and Príncipe, April 2007

Petrol Vending Shop

Petrol vending shop in São
Tomé and Príncipe