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Examining the geopolitics of oil and gas

Examining the geopolitics of oil and gas

Professor Anna Zalik’s research examines and critiques the political ecology and political economy of industrial extraction, with a focus on the merging of corporate security and social welfare interventions in strategic exporters. She has studied topics related to the political economy of hydrocarbons, substantive industrial transparency, and the contested regulation of extractive industries in oceans beyond national jurisdiction. Emerging from this work and informed by critiques of capitalism and persistent colonialism/imperialism, her recent research has centred on Canadian investment in the denationalization of the Mexican energy sector and financial risk in new extractive frontiers in the global oceans/seabed beyond national jurisdiction.

Her 2020 publications include a special section on extractive industries fieldwork and methodology co-edited with former FES postdoc Professor Adrienne Johnson (USF), an article on inconsistencies in oil spill data with Professor Michael Watts (UC- Berkeley, Emeritus), and a piece on Canadian pipeline firms, notably TC Energy, in Mexico “in The Conversation. Recently, she has published with Professor Liette Gilbert (FES) on risk and data transparency in the Canadian oil and gas transport sector, and with Prof Aleida Hernandez Cervantes (UNAM Mexico City) on Canada’s role in the restructuring of Mexico’s energy sector.

A 2017-19  project with Professors Leesa Fawcett and Elizabeth Havice (UNC-Chapel Hill) centered on questions of equity, biodiversity, and common heritage in the deep oceans. This entailed an interdisciplinary workshop which brought together scholars to examine how contemporary marine resource use is redefining the ocean frontier. A series of videos recorded at the workshop offers researchers’ insights and make specialist knowledge available in non-technical language to a broader public. A special issue resulting from that workshop includes Professor Zalik’s research on the geopolitics of the International Seabed, as well as introduction conceptualizing the dynamics of knowledge production, jurisdiction, and commodification  on contemporary ocean frontiers.

Professor Zalik has received various awards for her research on the political economy of hydrocarbons, substantive industrial transparency, as well as the contested regulation of extractive industries in oceans beyond national jurisdiction. An earlier project with Social Action Nigeria examined the implications of initiatives transparency discourse in the West African and international oil and gas industry. Via this research, Professor Zalik and colleague Dr. Asume Osuoka (FES PhD Alumnus and Vanier Scholar) have explored the parallels between oil and gas industries in Alberta and Nigeria; this has resulted in contributions in both scholarly and policy contexts.

Most recently, Professor Zalik along with Professor Tracey Osborne at UC-Merced  – with support from FES graduate student Dali Carmichael  –  have organized two panels relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first panel on Public Health and Inequality, sought to deepen public understanding of the health dimensions of the current crisis. The second panel on Labour and Working Conditions, examined how the crisis is affecting essential workers and workplaces, and the role of employment insecurity in shaping safety and security for these workers and the society that relies upon them.

Professor Anna Zalik holds a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University and was a Ciriacy Wantrup Post-doctoral fellow in Natural Resources and Political Economy at the University of California at Berkeley. She studied history and political science at the University of Alberta and has published extensively on the geopolitics of oil and gas. She has also given many invited talks in Canada and internationally, including at the UNAM, Mexico City, the Peace Research Institute – Oslo, and the University of Chicago Human Rights Centre, and has been a keynote speaker for the Association of American Geographers Energy and Environment section.