Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Klotz, Audie

Subject Categories

African Studies | Gender and Sexuality | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


The exploitation of women's labor is central to the international political economy. Since the 1980s, the trend has been towards a 'feminization of labor' in which women are confined to low-skilled, low-paying, and mostly part-time work. The exploitation of women's labor is not just confined to waged labor, as women's domestic and subsistence labor is necessary to make the economy function but remains unpaid and undervalued. Despite these findings, studies on the oil political economy have not sufficiently dealt with oil's impact on women's labor. These studies—albeit in different ways—undertheorize the link between oil, women's labor (waged and unwaged), and women's resistance. My dissertation fills this gap by examining the ways in which women's labor in the Niger Delta—the oil-producing region of Nigeria—is integrated into, impacted by, and shaping the Nigerian oil political economy. I argue that the Nigerian oil political economy exploits the waged labor of women oil workers and unwaged labor of rural Niger Delta women by integrating these labors into precarious positions and shifting costs onto households. However, women in the Niger Delta are organizing against structures that make laboring as women exploitative. In Chapter 2, I synthesize the different literatures on women's labor and oil economies and argue that using a theory of capitalist patriarchy is the best way to look at the relationship between oil and women's labor in the Nigerian oil political economy. Using a theory of capitalist patriarchy allows me to theorize the exploitation of women's waged and unwaged labor and link labor exploitation to resistance. Because my dissertation is influenced by African feminist research methodologies, Chapter 3 explains the ways in which I navigate issues of positionality and ethics during my fieldwork trips to Nigeria and how these issues influence data collection and the final dissertation. Chapter 4 argues that for women oil workers in the Port Harcourt branch of NUPENG (Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers), their labor is exploited not just because they experience casualization and redundancy as other oil workers do. These women's exploitation also results from gender ordering (exclusion and segregation) and sexual harassment in the workplace as well as the interaction between workday constraints and the domestic division of labor in the household. Chapter 5 argues that oil pollution in the Niger Delta is best understood as part of a Nigerian oil political economy—consisting of states, elites, and oil multinational corporations (MNCs)—that prioritize profits at the expense of the environment. These foreign and domestic actors effectively shift pollution costs from themselves onto rural women's domestic labor, destroying the women's agricultural livelihoods and causing reproductive harms. Lastly, in Chapter 6, I argue that the work done by the Women Committee of NUPENG's Port Harcourt zone and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around Port Harcourt continue a Niger Delta tradition of organizing against structures that make laboring as women exploitative. The dynamics observed in women's 'peasant resistance' in the Niger Delta—shadow work and counterplanning from the commons—can be found (although not in the exact ways) in the work done by NUPENG's Women Committee and these local NGOs.


Open Access