BAKOIL examines the construction of ‘oil city’ narratives and representations in Baku, Azerbaijan – one of the earliest and historically most significant oil cities in the world. Having survived several cycles of boom and bust, Baku is unusual among the world’s oil cities as it has neither declined nor reinvented itself, but instead perpetuated its dependence on oil and continued to strengthen its identity as ‘the oil city’. While the latest bust is still ongoing, ‘oil city’ discourses remain strongly vocalized in both official and unofficial representations of the city. Oil appears to be the medium that links the discourses of the past, present, and future of Baku.

The project will use a combination of ethnography and textual analysis to provide a detailed ethnographic analysis of the construction of Baku oil city identity in its temporal complexity. It will focus on the practices of collective remembering and forgetting in constructing the narratives of Baku as a historical center of oil production and will compare both official and unofficial narratives. Finally, the project will also explore the different imaginations of Baku’s future and the extent to which oil-city identity is perceived as a resource or a limitation to its development.

Bakoil is funded by the European Union under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowship scheme and is led by Dr Leyla Sayfutdinova. Project number: 897155