MEC Webinar: MT21: Wk 5: Air Pollution, Toxicity, and Environmental Politics in the History of Iranian Oil Nationalisation

Conveners: Middle East Centre, St Antony's College

Speaker: Dr Mattin Biglari (SOAS, University of London)


As we witness the increasingly visible effects of the global climate emergency, it is paramount that the study of the environment is better integrated into the social sciences and humanities. This is especially so in the case of Iran, where the recent drying up of rivers in the province of Khuzestan has caused water scarcity for the local population and led to subsequent political mobilisation. Yet it is also vital to consider less spectacular forms of environmental degradation that equally afflict the country today, particularly air pollution, which presents one of the world’s greatest health challenges and each year contributes to over 8 million deaths globally. This talk will turn attention to the toxicity of air pollution to illuminate its relationship to embodied subjectivity, (in)visibility, temporality and infrastructure, especially with reference to the politics of Iran’s oil nationalisation in 1951. By focusing on subaltern experiences in the oil refinery town of Abadan, it will offer an alternative account to challenge dominant nationalist narratives of this important episode in the country’s history. In doing so, it connects the modern history of Iran to a burgeoning body of work in the environmental and energy humanities that highlights the relationship between global pollution and imperialism in the Middle East and wider Global South.

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