Rumours as Anticipatory Knowledge in a Future Petro-State
Keywords:oil, future, anticipation, rumours, risk, uncertainty
Building on ethnographic research in Uganda, this paper discusses the mundane practice of rumour mongering and gossiping as anticipatory practices. Crude oil discovery in Uganda brought a small oil boom to the region endowed with the natural resource including some infrastructure development and the presence of foreign oil exploration and construction companies. With these companies came (young) men working for them or aspiring to get employed. However, as the development of the oil remained in a phase not-yet-ness, a temporal space opened for rumours about the oil and anyone involved with it to flourish in the oil region. Especially, since information on the (national) development of the oil project was scarce. The rumours used familiar tropes such as gender stereotypes or witchcraft to relate to the presence of foreign or at least non-local casual workers. Ugandans living in the oil region wondered what negative repercussions the boom might have for them and viewed the strangers with suspicion. During my fieldwork, I encountered rumours of wife-snatching, sexual harassment and even human sacrifice. This paper argues that these rumours can be understood as risks narratives or the sharing of anticipatory knowledge. The rumours were not only reflections of the past but were told in anticipation of the dark side of the future.
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