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‘Oil that harvests culture’: state, oil and culture in petrosocialism (Venezuela, 2007-2013)

Plaza, P. (2016). ‘Oil that harvests culture’: state, oil and culture in petrosocialism (Venezuela, 2007-2013). (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis develops a story about Venezuela as an oil state and the way it deploys its policies to instrumentalise culture and urban space. It examines the way the Petrostate is imagined in speeches, how it manifests physically in space and how it is discursively constructed in adverts. By engaging with the work of Henri Lefebvre, Bob Jessop and George Yúdice this thesis sets out to challenge the disciplinary compartmentalisation of the analysis of the material and cultural effects of oil to demonstrate that within the extractive logic of the Petrostate and the oil industry, territory, oil, and culture become indivisible. Mainly, it explores how the material and immaterial flows of oil traverse space, bureaucratic power, and culture. This thesis is particularly concerned with investigating the discursive and institutional mechanisms that enabled the Venezuelan stateowned oil company PDVSA to expand its dominant space over Caracas to effectively reframe the city as an urban oil field.

The thesis develops through four interconnected arguments. It examines the representations of space produced by Petrosocialism through the creation of the new policy instruments of the Socialist State Space. This process opened an institutional and legal breach that enabled PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, to enact the Oil Social District as a parallel State Space. Consequently, PDVSA’s definition of its corporate headquarters as a centre of oil extraction conceptualises Caracas as an oil field absorbed by the Oil Social District to enable PDVSA La Estancia (the cultural and social arm of PDVSA) to override municipal authority and embark on an ambitious program of public art restoration and urban regeneration. PDVSA La Estancia’s actions in the city are justified by its use of farming language that discursively melds oil and culture in a symbiotic and cyclical relationship to define their work as ‘oil that harvests culture’. Moreover, the advertising campaign ‘we transform oil into a renewable resource for you’ is used by PDVSA La Estancia to render oil and culture as equivalent, conceiving culture as ‘renewable oil’ as if culture could accumulate in the subsoil waiting to be extracted, exploited and processed like a mineral resource. An original contribution of this thesis is to build on Yúdice’s expediency of culture as a resource to propose the notion of culture-as-mineral deposit, in which culture is inextricable from land, akin to ‘renewable oil’ and tightly controlled by the Petrostate.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
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