Representations of Oil in Chad: A Blessing or a Curse?

Seign-goura Yorbana


This article presents representations of oil in Chad which have been drawn from ethnographic interviews with a variety of actors, most notably with local oil workers and inhabitants from the oil-producing areas of the country. It reveals that a decade of oil exploitation in Chad was sufficient enough time for a collective imaginary to emerge regarding the implicit and explicit effects of oil. Expectations about the impact of the extractive industry on local development have not been met, which has led communities to develop sometimes paradoxical feelings towards, beliefs about, and representations of oil. What began as a belief that oil is a gift from god to help to alleviate poverty has given way to a disappointed sense that oil is in fact a curse. This has seen people use metaphors involving fire, the devil, disease, animals, and cursed money to express the harsh realities of Chad’s mining industries. These myths, representations, and discussions about oil embody and explicate the resource curse theory.

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