Ryan Cecil Jobson

Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology

PhD, Yale University, 2017

Ryan Cecil Jobson is a social scientist trained in sociocultural anthropology and African American Studies. His research and teaching engage issues of energy and extractive resource development, technology and infrastructure, states and sovereignty, and histories of racial capitalism in the colonial and postcolonial Americas.

Broadly, his research examines the relationship between modern energy regimes (i.e. plantation slavery, carbon-based fuels) and the modern political ideal of sovereignty. His first book manuscript, Deepwater Futures: Sovereignty at Risk in a Caribbean Petrostate, is an ethnographic study of fossil fuel industries and postcolonial state building in Trinidad and Tobago. Following political independence in 1962, the expansion of fossil fuel industries promised to uplift the multiracial populace from histories of plantation slavery and indentureship. Yet, as oil production declined to historic lows, multinational investment was redirected from onshore and conventional sources to unconventional and deepwater frontiers. Accordingly, Deepwater Futures traces the disintegration of creole nationalist and state socialist visions of Caribbean modernity alongside a valorization of risk as a hallmark of postcolonial governance.

A second research project will comprise a historical ethnography of oil and bauxite development in the Guianas: Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. This research traces the emergence of the Guianas as an area of strategic development following the nationalization of oil assets in neighboring Venezuela. As one of several frontier margins in the Western Hemisphere—which include Canadian tar sands, North American shale, and deepwater production throughout the Atlantic basin—the Guianas herald a more diffuse extractive landscape conditioned by geographies of state socialism and postsocialism in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Jobson is a faculty affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, Center for Latin American Studies, and Committee on International Relations. He is Associate Editor of the journal Transforming Anthropology and sits on the editorial boards of Current Anthropology and Small Axe.

Contact Information

Office: Haskell 327
Phone: (773) 834-2507
Email: rjobson@uchicago.edu

Selected Publications


Dead Labor: On Racial Capital and Fossil Capital. In Histories of Racial Capitalism. Destin Jenkins and Justin Leroy, eds. Pp. 215 - 230. New York: Columbia University Press.


States of Crisis, Flags of Convenience: An Introduction. small axe 62: 67-77.

The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn: Sociocultural Anthropology in 2019American Anthropologist 122(2): 259-271.


RaceOxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. John L. Jackson, Jr., ed. New York: Oxford University Press

Black Gold in El Dorado: Frontiers of Race and Oil in GuyanaSSRC Items.


Road Work: Highways and Hegemony in Trinidad and Tobago. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 23(3): 457-477.


The Decolonizing Generation: (Race and) Theory in Anthropology Since the Eighties. With Jafari Sinclaire Allen. Current Anthropology 57(2): 129-148.