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Working through oil: skill, ethics, and masculinities in the Scottish oil and gas Industry

Watt, Connor (2022) Working through oil: skill, ethics, and masculinities in the Scottish oil and gas Industry. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004581


My thesis centres on the lives of oil and gas workers in North East Scotland, focussing on the specific ways of life which arise around this particular form of work. The research is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted with oil workers and their families in small coastal towns in Aberdeenshire and the Moray coast. My interlocutors are broadly split between an older generation who identify closely with forms of masculinity and work ethics which emerged alongside the initial development of the industry in the ‘early era’; and a younger generation of workers whose relationships to this form of labour have shifted in line with industry-wide changes and are more firmly rooted in the wider ethical livelihoods and kinship patterns made possible through work in the industry. The ethnographic material concentrates on material and temporal processes associated with resource production, in combination with intimate personal ethnographies of a number of key interlocutors from varied sections of the industry. A number of theoretical topics are developed in the thesis - the emergence of ethical attachments to work through processes of developing skills ‘in’ and ‘around’ labour; shifting gender ideologies and kinship arrangements which shape and are shaped by changes in the industry; differentiated understandings of agency in relation to windfall wealth and a dominant regional industry. During my fieldwork the industry was going through a period of intense downturn, with widespread redundancies and work becoming increasingly precarious. This moment of disruption spurred much discussion around the role of the industry in the region, the legacies of other forms of work, and the potential for alternative livelihoods in an area dominated by the oil industry. These issues take on increasing importance with discussions around the looming end of oil, and the possibilities of securing a just transition away from fossil fuel production.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Connor Watt
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Weszkalnys, Gisa and Bear, Laura

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