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Pharmaceutically-Made Men: Masculinities in Chad’s Emergent Oil Economy

Abstract

This article explores masculinities and changes in men’s lives in the rural oil fields of Chad during the period of an oil and pipeline project described by the World Bank as a “model” for oil-as-development. In many parts of Africa, private sector investment is concentrated in the extractive industries, especially oil and gas projects. Africa’s emerging oil economies entail new institutional configurations, or what Michael Watts called an “oil complex,” that challenge antecedent norms and forms of identity. In this article, I describe the expectations, desires, and experiences of three distinct groups of men—those who found temporary employment on the project, those who continued to make a living from farming while contending with land expropriation, and those who migrated to oil field towns in search of work—to make three general points about the oil complex and masculinities in Chad. The structure of the global oil industry meant that local men who found jobs on the project could act as breadwinners and patriarchs, but only temporarily; local workers struggled post-employment with their exclusion from the possibilities associated with the project. Men who never found jobs continued to eke out a living from the land, but state-of-the-art policies governing land expropriation led simultaneously to conflict in families and greater economic interdependence among family members. Finally, in the low-media environment of the oil field region, ideas and images about sex, sexuality, and love emanating from the transient and hyper-masculine global oil industry workforce served as models for landless young men who migrated to oil field towns and who, in the absence of work, sought to transform themselves into objects of desire through the mediation of pharmaceuticals.

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Acknowledgments

This article is based on long-term field research that was generously supported by the National Science Foundation and its Human and Social Dynamics Program (BCS-0527280) and Law and Social Sciences program (SES-0721712); the New Century Scholars Program of the J. William Fulbright Foundation, the Health, Environment, and Economic Development (HEED) Program of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (R21 TW006518-01); and the Population Center and the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University. I am grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an early draft of this article and to Ngondoloum Salathiel for his assistance with field research.

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Correspondence to Lori Leonard.

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Leonard, L. Pharmaceutically-Made Men: Masculinities in Chad’s Emergent Oil Economy. Qual Sociol 39, 421–437 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-016-9343-6

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Keywords

  • Africa
  • Chad
  • Extractive industries
  • Land expropriation
  • Lay-offs
  • Masculinity
  • Oil
  • Pipeline
  • Pornography
  • Viagra