01/29/18 Colloquium Series - Gertjan Plets: “Well-Oiled Cultural Politics in the Altai Republic: Promoting Indigenous Heritage in Gazprom’s Resource Colonies”
From David Price
Drawing on ethnographic perspectives, this paper will explore the neoliberal imbrications defining cultural politics in Russia’s indigenous resource frontiers. Experiences from the Altai Republic (Siberia) will be used to illustrate how culture and indigenous heritage are central strategic tools employed by multinational Gazprom to shape unique institutional landscapes and cultural imaginations of energy extraction on the ground. Through funding archaeological museums and the repatriation of indigenous remains to certain Siberian nationalities, Gazprom has not only acquired a “license to operate” from indigenous groups and bureaucrats to construct a strategic pipeline to China, it has also provided specific ethnic groups with exceptional cultural privileges unique in Russia. In our assessment, we will not only focus on the the impact of the energy corporation as many studies have done. When a region becomes relevant for energy exploration, a suite of NGOs, multilateral organizations, and opposition parties enter the political field. Consequently, this paper will also study how this broader “complex” associated with resource extraction drastically reformulates local regimes of truth and institutional structures.