[P4829] Historical Perspectives on the Life Worlds of Middle Eastern Oil

Created by Nelida Fuccaro
Tuesday, 11/21/17 8:00am


The history of Middle Eastern oil has recently received a new lease of life in the context of work on urban environments, energy, technology, and global democracy. In spite of its historical focus, much of this research has been the preserve of critical geographers, political scientists and economists. The overall aim of this panel is to shift attention to oil as a category of historical analysis and as an analytical category in its own right. The contributions to this panel seek to fine-tune our understanding of petroleum as an agent of historical change by disassembling its multifaceted powers and agents in order to bring to light oil's extensive circles of reach, and to connect micro and macro histories of oil development.

With a focus on the period starting in the 1940s and adopting a historical ethnographic approach the papers feature Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait at a crucial juncture in the history of the industry, caught in-between foreign control, nationalisation and labour turmoil. The case studies engage with the new 'regimes of living' produced and imagined by different company, state and local actors as mediated by institutions, political processes, technological infrastructures and imaginaries that functioned at different scales. The panel thus tackles an issue that has been little explored in the history of the modern Middle East: how oil as a system of mineral extraction, corporate power and energy and commodity production came to constitute and imagine what Appel, Mason and Watts have termed 'the life worlds of oil'.

By unveiling these life worlds through the material and discursive conditions that underpinned them this collection of papers also opens up a conversation with the field of energy and environmental humanities. More specifically three inter-related issues are going to be elaborated in detail. The first is how oil participated in the production and transformation of physical and political spaces: rural, urban, technical and national. The second is how new petroleum and petrochemical societies and communities became built (or were imagined) around networks of technical knowledge and expertise, propaganda flows, and the supply of oil-fed machinery and oil-related products such as cars, petrol and fertilisers. The third issue to be considered is the extent to which the evolution of petroleum spaces and communities opened up new possibilities of political contestation and co-optation.





Mandana E. Limbert

(City University of New York)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Nelida Fuccaro

(New York University Abu Dhabi)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Presenter;

Matthew MacLean

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Gregory Brew

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter; Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;