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Making Resource Futures: Petroleum and Performance by the Norwegian Barents Sea



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Dale, Ragnhild Freng  ORCID logo


This thesis is an ethnographic study of life with oil and gas in Hammerfest, the first petroleum town in Finnmark, and of what role this town plays and is cast as in narratives of petroleum as a driver for development in the larger region. It examines how oil in the Barents region is both disputed and celebrated, and how this resource, which has been central to the Norwegian economy and society for the last 50 years, is understood from northern perspectives. In particular, it explores what forms consent and conflict take, and how different actors engage in showing, masking and performing these.

Throughout the thesis, I employ performance as a trope to understand the creation and circulation of narratives about petroleum in the north, and how they are put in motion by industry players, local and national politicians, environmentalists and other actors. Working in a region that is simultaneously Sápmi and Northern Norway, the thesis also asks how assimilation policies and coloniality continue to have an impact today, and how this partakes in the making of pasts, presents and futures in the region.

The first part of the thesis seeks to ground the making of narratives and lives in Hammerfest, to understand how the stakes and impacts of resource development are understood locally, and how futures are made and broken by the materialisation of the petroleum projects on- and offshore. The second part of the thesis is concerned with how the industry, the state and environmentalists creatively engage with conference settings, state rituals and the legal system, to strengthen their own narrative or contest that of others.

From platform openings to announcement of licensing rounds, industry celebrations to Norway’s first climate lawsuit, the thesis argues that an explicit focus on performance and rituals of state and industry is critical for our understanding of industrial development and resource futures.





Powell, Richard
Vitebsky, Piers


Petroleum, Energy, Northern Norway, Sápmi, performance, indigeneity, Hammerfest, peformativity, oil, gas, state rituals, social license, CSR, futures, narratives


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge