Futures: Oil and the Licit Life of Capitalism in Equatorial Guinea

Hannah Appel
UC Los Angeles

This book offers an ethnographic account of the daily life of capitalism. It is both an account of a specific capitalist project—US oil companies working off the shores of central Africa—and an exploration of more general forms and processes—the offshore, contracts, infrastructures, something called “the” economy—that facilitate diverse capitalist projects around the world. The book draws on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Equatorial Guinea’s oil industry. Widely considered to be among the world’s most corrupt dictatorships, Equatorial Guinea counter-intuitively offers an ideal place in which to follow what we might call the licit life of capitalism: practices that are legally sanctioned, widely replicated, and even ordinary, at the same time as they are messy, contested, and to many, indefensible.