Contemporary literature on natural resource governance has been occupied by approaches that focus on actors and the structure of the production system as the prompting elements in building the character of natural resource governance. Despite its contributions to understanding the dynamics of natural resource politics by highlighting the contesting interests between actors, this actor-structure literature rarely discussed materiality as the essential part of the analysis. This study is an attempt to provide an alternative approach that highlights the importance of materiality in analyzing natural resource politics. By applying the methodology of relational thinking from Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and Manuel Delanda’s assemblage theory this research suggests that the materiality of natural resource play a vital role in the implementation of the global governance of natural resources. The use of relational thinking, I assume, opens up the possibility to understand further the emerging spaces of interaction and political agencies in natural resource politics.
The main objective of this research is to understand how the materiality of natural resources influences the translation of global norms at the local level. Drawing on the cases of two oil-producing villages in Bojonegoro District in East Java Province, Gayam and Wonocolo, I explore how the norm of transparency is implemented in the oil and gas sectors. The comparative case study design is used here to see the differences in socio-material relations i.e. the actors, networks, and discourses resulting from different materialities of oil. Gayam and Wonocolo are located in the area of oil production but are characterized by two different oil production systems: Gayam represents the modern system while Wonocolo has traditional systems. Gayam is one of 12 oil-producing villages in the new oil field of Banyuurip where the oil reservoir is located between two to six kilometers underground. Meanwhile, Wonocolo is one of five old oil-producing villages with oil reservoirs sited at less than 500 meters underground. Oil production and distribution in the Banyuurip field are characterized by high technology and capital intensive, while Wonocolo field oil production is run by thousands of artisanal oil miners and sellers.
This comparative case study is expected to bring a new understanding of how the global norm of transparency is translated differently in different oil materialities. The relational thinking in the actors-network theory (ANT) and assemblage theory could contribute to analyzing socio-material relations — such as interrelations of materiality with humans, and other nonhuman elements such as information, knowledge, technologies, and regulation– that affect in a different way the implementation of oil resource governance. Through this methodology, I will uncover the history of oil production and its relations with the people in the two villages, and explore how oil transforms identity, territorialization, statehood, and modes of resource management. The study aims to understand how materiality is associated with the social dimension of humans, channeling with information, capital, institution, and technology, thus, extending space and shaping agencies.
Keywords: materiality, oil, actors-network, assemblage