Making Cultural Heritage Claims on Profitable Land: The Case of the Ngassa Wells in Uganda’s Oil Region

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In the exploration phase of Uganda’s oil project, controversy arose regarding the drilling of wells on the grounds of important shrines of spirits of the adjacent Lake Albert. While the oil companies and the state looked at the market value of the land, the claimants emphasised its cultural heritage value, building a link to an international heritage discussion. This article argues that, while they have been barred from political influence on the oil project, cultural institutions such as the Bunyoro Kingdom and the claimants in the village near the controversial well used cultural heritage as a vantage point to get their voices heard and to gain negotiating power in the project. The article shows how widening of the definition of cultural heritage – which means dropping a bias for built infrastructure – has put culture alongside politics, economics, and the environment as an important factor to consider in extractive projects.