[P6527] Environmental Histories of 20th Century Iran through Local, National, Colonial, and Trans-National Perspectives

Created by Amit Sadan
Friday, 12/03/21 11:30 am


The Iranian physical environment has been fundamentally shaped by the tides of global affairs in modern times. But to what extent can we observe an effect which the environment exerted on those who lived in it, or on those who endeavoured to manipulate it? Is it a story of a reciprocal relationship between humans and nature, or rather a tragedy of a careless and short-sighted manipulation of the environment, the repercussions of which millions of Iranians experience today? To what extent was the interaction between the environment and human actors influenced by dominant narratives of nationalism, development, and environmentalism? This panel will offer diverse perspectives on these questions. The chronological time frame of the panel will begin in 1902 with the dawn of oil exploration efforts that would result in the formation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran’s south-west. The first paper will discuss the reciprocal impacts of the oil company’s operations on the one hand, and the local climatic and disease environment on the other. It will also explore the real and perceived effects of the environment on the well-being of those whose lives and livelihoods were tied to the oil industry – such as Indian and Iranian workers, European technical and managerial staff, and local residents. The second paper will look at major nation-building projects throughout the Pahlavi era, such as the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway (1927-1938) and that of the Karaj dam (opened 1961), through the prism of the correspondence between colonial environmental narratives, the nationalist Pahlavi ideology, and environmental change. It will examine in what ways the Iranian environment transformed as both Iranians and foreign experts strived to impose upon it their own perceptions of development and progress. The third paper treats the encounter between the natural environment and infrastructural projects over the last decades of the Pahlavi Dynasty. Examining projects such as the construction of hydroelectric dams, modern roads and irrigation canals, the paper will discuss how material elements in the natural environment shaped these projects, and informed their planners’ perception of nature. The last paper will complete the multi-dimensional approach, tracing the emergence of trans-national ties around environmental action throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Studying diplomatic/technocratic and academic networks through environmentally-oriented journals and international conferences, this paper will describe the mutual influence of the Iranian and global environmentalist communities on each other in a manner that de-centers the state without disregarding it.


Hist; Hist




Shima Houshyar

(CUNY Graduate Center)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Saghar Sadeghian

(Willamette University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Bryan Sitzes

(The University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Arman Azimi

(Storrs, Connecticut)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Amit Sadan

(University of Michigan)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;