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Dr Pauline Destree

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology


I am an anthropologist with a background in material and visual culture studies and a regional interest in West Africa. My work is centred around questions of energy politics, environmental inequalities and post-oil futures in West Africa. My research interests include the anthropology of energy, resource extraction, sustainability and applied and corporate ethnography. 

My first research project was an ethnography of electricity infrastructure as a form of political imagination in Accra, Ghana during an energy crisis and the privatisation of public utilities. In a context of neoliberalisation, infrastructure became a key site of political negotiation – about the changing role of the state in organising urban collective life, housing dynamics in an economic crisis, and historical notions of the social contract and national citizenship after independence. 

My second and current project looks at post-oil environmental and political futures in Ghana. Based on an ethnography of the emerging and already-declining oil industry in Takoradi, Ghana’s ‘Oil City’ in the Western Region, I look at how workers employed in the logistics sector of the offshore oil industry imagine and anticipate their futures and their country’s future without oil. I am currently working on a book manuscript based on this project (tentatively titled In Oil’s Aftermaths: energy futures and carbon inequality in Ghana). 

I am also interested in climate adaptation, coastal erosion and heritage preservation in West Africa.

Prior to joining Durham, I was a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of St Andrews on the ERC project ‘Energy Ethics’, a comparative study of the ‘Ethics of Oil’ led by Dr Mette High. I was previously a Teaching Fellow on the Europaeum Scholars Programme.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students with a focus on energy, sustainability, resource extraction, materiality and temporality, and the energy & environmental humanities.

Research interests

  • Energy politics, cultures and practices
  • Resource Extraction
  • Environmental politics and climate change
  • Energy transitions, decarbonization, net zero
  • International development, CSR
  • Futures and political imaginaries
  • Applied and corporate ethnography
  • West Africa

Esteem Indicators

  • 2023: Secretary, EASA Energy Anthropology Network (EAN):
  • 2022: Editor, Weather Matters: