Oil Culture

Oil Culture

Ross Barrett and Daniel Worden

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816689682

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


In the 150 years since the birth of the petroleum industry, oil has saturated our culture, fueling our cars and wars, our economy and policies. But just as thoroughly, culture saturates oil. So what exactly is “oil culture”? This book pursues an answer through petrocapitalism’s history in literature, film, fine art, wartime propaganda, and museum displays. Investigating cultural discourses that have taken shape around oil, the book composes the first sustained attempt to understand how petroleum has suffused the Western imagination. The chapters examine the oil culture nexus, beginning with the whale oil culture it replaced and analyzing literature and films such as Giant, Sundown, Bernardo Bertolucci’s La Via del Petrolio, and Ben Okri’s “What the Tapster Saw”; corporate art, museum installations, and contemporary photography; and apocalyptic visions of environmental disaster and science fiction. By considering oil as both a natural resource and a trope, the chapters show how oil’s dominance is part of culture rather than an economic or physical necessity.

Table of Contents

Part I Oil’s Origins of Modernization

2 The Wizard of Oil

Rochelle Raineri Zuck

Part II Oil’s Golden Age: Literature, Film, and Propaganda

6 Fossil-Fuel Futurity

Daniel Worden

8 From Isfahan to Ingolstadt

Georgiana Banita

Part III The Local and Global Territories of Oil

10 Oil Frontiers

Michael Watts

12 Refined Politics

Matthew T. Huber

13 Gendering Oil

Sheena Wilson

Part IV Exhibiting Oil

14 Mixing Oil and Water

Dolly Jørgensen

16 Fossil, Fuel

Stephanie Lemenager

Part V The Future of and without Oil

18 Crude Aesthetics

Imre Szeman

19 Oil and Dust

Melanie Doherty

End Matter