Big Oil and Troubled Waters: The Tanzanian-Norwegian Energy Relationship, 1970-2020

Big Oil and Troubled Waters represents a comprehensive historical exploration of the energy discourses and rhetoric that have stood at the core of the Tanzanian-Norwegian development relationship for half a century.

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From large-scale hydropower projects to the discovery of substantial offshore petroleum reserves, this project will take an in-depth look at the evolution of Tanzanian-Norwegian energy cooperation in Tanzania from 1970-2020. Focusing on how Tanzanian and Norwegian actors employed rhetoric and influenced discourses to both foster collaboration and further their own interests, the project will develop greater understanding into how economic, civil society, and state interests collided and coalesced to shape the development of Tanzania’s energy sector.

Focusing on how Norwegian and Tanzanian actors employed rhetoric and shaped influenced discourses to foster collaboration and further their own interests, the project will analyze how “constellations of influence” – rapidly evolving agglomerations of business and civil society organizations – became critical actors in a rhetorical space where sustainability was weaponized and development canonized. Big Oil and Troubled Waters will seek to nuance, challenge, and build upon existing historical narratives on Norwegian development and energy history largely dominated Norwegian source material and perspectives. Further, the project will develop deeper understanding into integral roles of business and civil society in the Tanzanian-Norwegian development relationship, analyzing how these sectors have historically leveraged rhetoric and discourse to influence Tanzania’s development.

Objectives & Research Questions

  • How did the Norwegian constellation of influence shape Tanzanian development and energy discourses from 1970-2020? Did this constellation of influence change and/or supplant native Tanzanian discourses over time?
  • How did the Norwegian discourse on Tanzanian energy development evolve from 1970-2020? How did the Norwegian discourse change significantly after large offshore gas reserves were discovered in 2010, Statoil/Equinor invested heavily in the country, and Norad added Tanzania to its Oil for Development program?
  • How do these discourses interact with North-South dynamics and power asymmetries – in other words, how did Tanzanian discourses engage with Norwegian discourses? Furthermore, how did the Tanzanian constellation of influence leverage rhetoric in an attempt to compensate for North-South asymmetries and establish alternate visions and discourses vis-à-vis Norway?
  • For Tanzania, both hydropower and gas were part of a broader discourse on finding reliable sources of energy for Tanzanian development – in other words, while the exporting of gas or hydroelectric power was seen as exciting, Tanzania’s domestic need for energy came first. Did the Norwegian discourse(s) share the same orientation? If not, why?





Published Dec. 1, 2020 4:37 PM - Last modified Aug. 13, 2021 1:57 PM