Why Women Are at War with Chevron: Nigerian Subsistence Struggles Against the International Oil Industry


Turner, Terisa E., and Leigh S. Brownhill. 2004. “Why Women Are at War with Chevron: Nigerian Subsistence Struggles Against the International Oil Industry.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 39 (1-2): 63–93. doi:10.1177/0021909604048251.

Authors: Terisa E. Turner, Leigh S. Brownhill


This study is an inquiry into why women were at war with oil companies in Nigeria and how they internationalized their struggle. Employing the Midnight Notes Collective’s concept of “the new enclosures”; Shiva, Mies, and Bennholdt-Thomsen’s “subsistence perspective”; and McMurtry’s concept of the “civil commons,” the study elaborates a “gendered class analysis” to consider the social anatomy of coordinated global actions by producers and consumers of oil. Part one examines the period from July 2002 to February 2003. Nigerian women occupied oil terminals and flow stations and inspired global protests against war and oil companies. Part two considers widespread Nigerian workers’ strikes in the period from February 2003 to July 2003. These included work stoppages in transport, the oil industry, and the public service; a two-week seizure by oil workers of four Trans-ocean deep-sea platforms and an eight-day general strike against increases in the price of petroleum products. Part three analyzes the July–September 2003 period. From 10 July 2003 peasant women occupied oil facilities throughout the Delta. As official government neared collapse, village and clan-based organizations assumed much of the responsibility for the oversight of their own communities. By September 2003, insurgents shut down some 40 percent of Nigerian crude oil production capacity. Villagers denied oil companies all physical access to the western Delta. Chevron/Texaco, Shell, other majors and their contractors evacuated their Warri headquarters. The autonomous village organizations, linked to each other through regional solidarity networks, coordinated pan-Delta defense against Nigerian and U.S. military counterinsurgency. The study concludes with an analysis of the roots of insurgent power and direct deals in oil.

Keywords: international oil industry, Nigeria, subsistence, women


“Women are at the forefront of social movements because, despite their being largely unwaged, capital exploits them as it commodifies and uses up “free” nature, social services, built space, and the production of paid and unpaid work.” (Turner and Brownhill, 2004, p. 64)
 “In 2002 women who are responsible for much of the farming, fishing, feeding and life sustenance stood up against corporate destruction.” (p. 64)
“A much more fertile form of anti-imperial, transformational ‘globalization from below’…provoked women outside of Nigeria to defend subsistence as life-affirmation in the context of global anti-war mobilization” (p. 65)
“The international oil companies bring two (among several) groups of people – those resident on oil reserves and those who consume oil – into one organization (i.e. the organization of the oil corporations themselves and the oil market that they define). Because the oil companies bring these two groups into one global organization; the groups, by acting together, have the power to destroy the corporations by simultaneously denying them crude oil and product purchases.” (p. 65)
“In much of Africa, women throw off their clothes in an ultimate protest to say ‘this is where life comes from. I hereby revoke your life.’ Nakedness by elderly women, in particular, is used in extreme and life-threatening situations. Women wielding the weapon of the exposed vagina could be killed or raped. It is with the knowledge of the act’s life and death implications that women enter into such protest. Women who go naked implicitly state that they will get their demands met or die in the process of trying. Many men subjected to this “social execution” believe they will actually die when exposed to such a serious threat.” (p. 71)


Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Society, Class, Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Globalization, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Multi-National Corporations, Political Economies, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2004

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