Info for... William & Mary
William & Mary W&M menu close William & Mary

Andrea Wright

Associate Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology

Email: [[agwright]]
Areas of Specialization: cultural anthropology; anthro-history; energy infrastructure; labor; migration; security; kinship; India; Pakistan; the Arabian Sea; 20th century British Imperialism; postcolonial states; human rights
Office: Washington Hall Room 119
Appointments and office hours may be booked online:

My research explores the oil industry in the Arabian Sea from the 1940s to the present in order to understand connections between energy, governance, and rights. Particularly, I use ethnographic and historic methodologies to examine labor migration from India to the oilfields of the Arabic-speaking Gulf. Based on this research, I am currently working on two book projects: “From Slavery to Contract” and “Between Dreams and Ghosts.”

“From Slavery to Contract: An Anthropological History of Labor and Oil in the Arabian Sea” looks at the history of transnational labor at British oil projects in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula.  At those projects, I look at working conditions, hiring practices, and worker strikes from the 1940s to the early 1970s. This is a period that includes the end of formal British imperialism in the Gulf and South Asia and the early years of postcolonial states. This examination of labor and oil demonstrates that, in the mid-twentieth century, oil was increasingly associated with national security and that this association was used to evacuate politics from the oilfields.

“Between Dreams and Ghosts: Indian Migration and Middle Eastern Oil” examines labor migration as a social process that draws upon and influences not only migrants’ own communities but also contemporary governance and capitalism. It does so through use of multi-sited ethnographic research conducted in India and the Arabic-speaking Gulf. I follow migrants from their homes in rural India to job sites in the Middle East and include all parties involved in supplying manpower to the oilfields. Through focusing on the process of migration and the multiple actors involved, I critically interrogate the standard view of contemporary globalization, which understands neoliberal reforms as a process that happens from the top-down. Instead, “Between Dreams and Ghosts” shows how migrants, along with low-level bureaucrats, oil company project managers, and small business owners in India, all shape transnational migration and, in doing so, global capitalism.

PhD, Anthropology & History, University of Michigan; MA, Anthropology & History, University of Michigan; MA, Social Sciences, University of Chicago; BA, Anthropology & Art History, University of Michigan

Courses Offered

ANTH 150: Culture and Migration

ANTH 202: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

ANTH 300: History of Anthropological Theory

ANTH 350: Anthropology of the State

Asian & Middle Eastern Studies:

AMES 250: Introduction to Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

AMES 390: Oil in the Middle East

AMES 493: Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Senior Capstone