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Life after Oil: The Politics of Labor in Bessora’s Petroleum

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2018


Petroleum, a 2004 novel by Swiss-Gabonese writer Bessora, takes place almost entirely on the Ocean Liberator, a ship extracting oil off the coast of Gabon. I argue that the Ocean Liberator operates as what Marc Augé calls a non-place, a place that cannot be defined in terms of history, identity, or relations. Non-places, frequently under neither national nor international supervision, facilitate the creation of a precarious international labor force. I furthermore underline the relation among the non-place workplace, environmental degradation, and the choice of detective fiction. Petroleum is what I call a supermodern detective novel, which moves beyond local violence to deal with transnational networks of capitalist power and oppression.

© Cambridge University Press 2018 

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