top of page

The Petro-State Masquerade
Oil, Sovereignty and Power in Trinidad and Tobago

The University of Chicago Press, 2024

About 2

A historical and ethnographic study of the fraught relationship between fossil fuels and political power in Trinidad and Tobago.
Examining the past, present, and future of Trinidad and Tobago’s oil and gas industries, anthropologist Ryan Cecil Jobson traces how a model of governance fashioned during prior oil booms is imperiled by declining fossil fuel production and a loss of state control. Despite the twin-island nation’s increasingly volatile and vulnerable financial condition, however, government officials continue to promote it as a land of inexhaustible resources and potentially limitless profits.
The result is what Jobson calls a “masquerade of permanence” whereby Trinbagonian state actors represent the nation as an interminable reserve of hydrocarbons primed for multinational investment.  In The Petro-State Masquerade, Jobson examines the gulf between this narrative crafted by the postcolonial state and the vexed realities of its dwindling petroleum-fueled aspirations. After more than a century of commercial oil production, Trinidad and Tobago instructs us to regard the petro-state less as a permanent form than a fragile relation between fossil fuels and sovereign authority. Foregrounding the concurrent masquerades of oil workers, activists, and Carnival revelers, Jobson argues that the promise of decolonization lies in the disarticulation of natural resources, capital, and political power by ordinary people in the Caribbean.

Pre-order available from the University of Chicago Press,, Amazon. Cover Image by Christopher Cozier.

bottom of page