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Fiat speech, fiat infrastructure: the semiosis of anticipatory transformation in Timor-Leste’s emerging oil economy

Bovensiepen, Judith M. (2023) Fiat speech, fiat infrastructure: the semiosis of anticipatory transformation in Timor-Leste’s emerging oil economy. American Ethnologist, . ISSN 0094-0496. (In press) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:101374)

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In 2011, the independent government of Timor-Leste initiated a controversial oil and gas infrastructure project, despite uncertainty at the time whether the country legally possessed economically viable resources to develop. To persuade Timorese citizens to embrace their vision of the future based on oil and gas despite these uncertainties, supporters of the project employed narrative strategies conventionally reserved for ritual authorities. The scaling of ritual speech to the level of the nation hinged on establishing iconic links across different eventworlds (chronotopes). “Fiat speech”, was, like infrastructure, designed to bring named realities into being through anticipation. To analyse the risky process of prolepsis that underlies fiat speech and infrastructural planning, this article develops the concept of “anticipatory transformation”, combining insights from the anthropology of time and semiotics. This concept allows us to understand how oil infrastructure became not just a symbol of modernity, progress, and development, but as an index thereof.

Item Type: Article
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author(s) has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.
Uncontrolled keywords: infrastructure, semiotic ideologies, temporality, chronotopes, oil, animism
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Leverhulme Trust (
Depositing User: Judith Bovensiepen
Date Deposited: 23 May 2023 07:46 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2023 12:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Bovensiepen, Judith M..

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