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Title:Between Ethnic Essentialism and Environmental Racism: Oil and the 'Globalisation' of Environmental Justice Discourse in Nigeria
Author:Akpan, WilsonISNI
Periodical:African Sociological Review (ISSN 1027-4332)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Nigeria
West Africa
Subjects:petroleum extraction
environmental management
social conflicts
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Ethnic and Race Relations
Development and Technology
international relations
Environment, Ecology
Environmental justice
Petroleum industry and trade
Race discrimination
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/afrisocirevi.10.2.18
Abstract:This paper examines the 'state' of environmental justice discourse in Nigeria, focussing on the ways in which the concept of environmental racism has been deployed to explain corporate and State conduct in the upstream petroleum sector. In trying to make environmental racism relevant to the debates on socio-ecological abuses, and attendant grassroots resistance in Nigeria, some analysts have inserted it into ethnic discourse, suggesting that the crisis in Nigeria's oil-producing communities stems from selective ethnic victimization, given the majority/minority imbalances in the country, while the socio-environmental crisis can be explained racially, since the ethical conduct of Western transnational corporations is implicated. Based on a recent ethnographic study conducted in three oil-producing towns in the Niger Delta, namely Oloibiri (Bayelsa State), Ebubu (Rivers State) and Iko (Akwa Ibom State), and on relevant secondary data, the present author shows how the application of environmental racism both illuminates and distorts the social character of petroleum-related grassroots struggles in Nigeria. The narrative of discontent he encountered indicated that ordinary people viewed the crisis in class, rather than ethnic, terms. Their anger was directed towards an 'anti-people' character of governance rather than towards the non oil-producing nationalities. This suggests that decades of naked greed, failed 'background institutions' and disastrous political governance in Nigeria have, paradoxically, not sufficiently instigated in the scholarly community a fundamental rethink of the sociology of dispossession in Nigeria. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract, edited]