When Oil and Childhood Mix: Petroculture and Hergé 's Adventures of Tintin


03 mars 2020

12h30 - 13h30


Bibliotheek De Krook, Miriam Makebaplein, 1

Conférence de Lara Saguisag, professeure associée à la City University of New York (CUNY) est une spécialiste de la littérature de jeunesse et de la bande dessinée. Elle est l'auteure de l'ouvrage Incorrigibles and Innocents: Constructing Childhood and Citizenship in Progressive Era Comics (Presses universitaires de Rutgers, 2018), pour lequel elle a reçu deux prix prestigieux (celui de la Comics Studies Society et un autre de la Popular Culture Association). Elle est également auteure de livres pour enfant.

Our daily lives are marked by petroleum products, yet many of us seem unaware of the depth of our dependence on oil Scholars and critics who work in the energy humanities argue that it is precisely oil's ability to "hide in plain sight/site" that allows it to saturate our lives.As the organizers of the 2015 After Oil School put it, our global society is a petroculture, "an oil society through and through"; oil and other fossil fuels not only determine our physical environment and material needs, but "have also shaped our values, practices, habits, beliefs and feelings". Oil energy undoubtedly also shapes the narratives we tell one another, even if, as Amitav Ghosh observes, authors are by and large reticent to explicitly address the subject of oil Graeme MacDonald suggests that we can rehistoricize literary periods and movements by examining literature's "role in reproducing (or, indeed, resisting) ... a predominant energy culture" Moreover, as Stephanie LeMenager points out, the production and dissemination of our narratives -in comic book/graphie nove) form, for example -are powered by fossil fuels and corne at a bigh environmental cost.
Building on the urgent work of the energy humanities, this paper approaches childhood's narratives as products and responses to petroculture. Using Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin as a case study, it shows how narratives for children are embedded in and expressive of petroculture. In a few volumes, Hergé draws attention to how a much-valued resource can become a source of crisis and conflict. In Tintin in America (1945; U.S. edition 1979), an lndigenous community is displaced and dispossessed by capitalist oil industry; in The Land of Black Gold (1950, U.S. edition 1975), oil reserves become a target for a "major foreign power" that seeks to initiate war and create global instability.

But Tintin, in a fashion, also runs on oil. To be precise: his status as an accomplished, globetrotting youngjournalist is made possible by fossil fuels. Traveling around the world and across countries via car, plane, train, and ship, Tintin is a model of adventurous, autonomous, and incredibly mobile boyhood. Adventures of Tintin does not reveal the economic (or environmental) costs of such mobility, as if to say that fuel is abundant and free of charge. The series also expresses how petroleum is tied to narratives of economic, social, and national progress and used to buttress colonialist ideologies. Tintin's encounters with members of preindustrialized societies serve to underscore the difference between exuberant, oil-fueled, industrialized nations and "inert" communities that have yet to full y participate in the global oil society. Readers in the twenty-first century will perhaps recognize how this intertwining of oil with notions of progress bas corne at a terribly devastating cost. The industrialized global north's insatiability for fossil fuels and drive for modernization, expansion, and accumulation has brought about a climate catastrophe that is aJready severely impacting communities and nations in the "developing" global south.

This paper is part of a larger project tbat examines childhood in light of energy regimes. The project is an investigation of the relationship between petroctùture and conceptualizations and experiences of childhood. As this case study of Adventures of Tintin suggests, cbildhood and childhood' s narratives are not innocent of oil.


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