Oil Without Money: The Significance of Bartered Oil in (and beyond) Russia

Douglas Rogers, Yale University


This working paper uses data gathered in the course of NCEEER-funded research in the Perm Region of Russia to outline some new ways of thinking about the exchange and circulation of oil. Nearly all existing studies, whether in the author’s home discipline of anthropology or in neighboring social sciences, place primary emphasis on the nexus of oil and money. They consider oil wealth, petrodollars, federal budget allocations, oil and banking, systems of taxation, ways in which money enables abstraction and generalization, money and state forms, and so on. However, the case of Soviet and post-Soviet oil points to the significance of barter in the circulation of oil, both in local contexts and on a global scale. The working paper points to ways in which ethnographic and historical consideration of petrobarter should expand our knowledge of the political economy of oil, especially by drawing attention to ways in which a variety of groups, at a variety of scales, have used barter to frame and pursue challenges to the national and international systems that channel the flow of oil and associated political and economic power.

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