Crafting a Work Persona in 1970s Petroleum Geology


  • Brian Beaton Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo), USA



occupational culture, oil, work persona, scientific communication, energy politics


Taking inspiration from a 1972 study by Allan Sekula that concerned everyday shifts in subjectivity among a set of industrial and technical workers, this paper looks at work persona production in petroleum geology, a profession at the centre of the global oil industries and oil capitalism. Persona production is part of how petroleum geologists explain themselves and their controversial work to one another, and how they manage individual celebrity within their expert community. Taking as its data source obituaries and death notices that circulated inside the profession over the course of the 1970s, the paper concentrates on a specific persona created by petroleum geologists as part of their ritualized mourning practices. Findings presented within the paper show that obituaries and death notices were used to collaboratively craft a work persona that is thoroughly disconnected from energy politics and controversy: the imagined figure of the petroleum geologist that emerges is someone who is rugged, righteous, loving, fraternal, and deeply connected to nature. The stakes of this research concern not only work personas and their histories, but also the material underpinnings of contemporary cultural production and ongoing debates over energy forms and futures.


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Author Biography

  • Brian Beaton, Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo), USA

    Dr. Brian Beaton is the Director of the Center for Expressive Technologies at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and an Assistant Professor in Cal Poly's College of Liberal Arts.


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How to Cite

Crafting a Work Persona in 1970s Petroleum Geology. (2015). Persona Studies, 1(2), 31-41.