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Offshore Attachments: Oil and Intimacy in the Caribbean

Dr. Chelsea Schields (University of California, Irvine)

Discussants: Dr. Wigbertson Julian Isenia (UvA-Anthropology) & Dr. Mikki Stelder (UvA-ASCA)

DATE: Monday 9 October

Activity: TRANSREGIONAL DIALOGUE #1 in collaboration with ARTES

Offshore Attachments reveals how the contested management of sex and race transformed the Caribbean into a crucial site in the global oil economy. By the mid-twentieth century, the Dutch islands of Curaçao and Aruba housed the world’s largest oil refineries. To bolster this massive industrial experiment, oil corporations and political authorities offshored intimacy, circumventing laws regulating sex, reproduction, and the family in a bid to maximize profits and turn Caribbean subjects into citizens. Historian Chelsea Schields demonstrates how Caribbean people both embraced and challenged efforts to alter intimate behavior in service to the energy economy. Moving from Caribbean oil towns to European metropolises and examining such issues as sex work, contraception, kinship, and the constitution of desire, Schields narrates a surprising story of how racialized concern with sex shaped hydrocarbon industries as the age of oil met the end of empire.


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