PETROCULTURES 2024: OIL CITIES AND POST-OIL CITIES, University of Southern California

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Panel title: Sites of Non-Spectacular Resistance to Ecological Exhaustion: Minor Cities, Extractive Landscapes, and the Expansive Footprint of Energy Consumption

Geneva Foster Gluck (Independent Scholar)
Penélope Plaza (University of Reading)
David Pratten (University of Oxford)
Gianfranco Selgas (University College London)
Ernesto Semán (University of Bergen)
Lara Weaver (Queen’s University Belfast)


This panel explores the intersection of energy culture, infrastructure, and urban life in minor, extractive cities, drawing deeper connections between the global South and the global North. In the discourse surrounding post-oil cities, there exists a prevalent bias towards spectacular metropolises such as Los Angeles, New York, and London. We seek to redress this imbalance by focusing on minor cities and remote ecosystems, such as Lake Maracaibo and Cerro Bolívar (Venezuela), Rub’ al Khali sand dunes (UAE), rural Arizona and northern Mexico (US), Ekofisk (Norway), and Port Harcourt (Nigeria). These territories were thrust into the global extractive economy due to their proximity to industrial energy production and have borne the ecological and social toll of slow violence inherent in extractive practices. The enduring presence of energy and extractive infrastructure—from oil derricks and refineries to mining sites—is often naturalized as commonplace, akin to the natural environment, only garnering attention when failures occur. We will delve into the overlooked, historical consequences of such intersections and the social practices of resistance taking place in these landscapes of extraction. Geneva Foster Gluck tells an interconnected story of aggressive extraction, globalized energy demands, and rapid loss of groundwater in Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora. Penélope Plaza explores the asymmetry and inequality on which bodies suffer the toxic, social, and ecological consequences of extractivism in Cabimas and Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. David Pratten studies Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s main “oil city,” as a symbol and catalyst of the country’s incorporation into the global economy of energy capitalism. Gianfranco Selgas scrutinizes how the ecological depletion of iron-rich Cerro Bolívar, and the emergence of Piar City, came to symbolize a far- fetched idealization of a post-oil Venezuela. Ernesto Semán dissects Norway’s petroculture as a form of erasure that manufactures realism by putting aside historical evidence in films on the offshore oil rig Ekofisk. Finally, Lara Weaver focuses on the “singing” sand dunes of UAE’s Rub’ al Khali, to examine conflicting agendas in experiential representations of the desert within global narratives of the climate crisis.
Period15 May 202418 May 2024
Event typeConference
LocationLos Angeles, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • petrocultures