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Cultures, Ecologies and Economies of Oil: A Critical Exploration of the Lived Contradictions and Representations of Oil across Nations, Sectors, and Disciplines Event

Published: 30 June 2021
Cultures, Ecologies and Economies

We are delighted to announce the initiation of a series of events we will be running and we hope they will be of special appeal to those of you are interested in such topics, notions, and areas as Environmental Humanities, Energy Humanities, Ecocriticism, Anthropocene, Capitalocene, World Dramas and World Literatures, and Petro-Drama and Petr-Literature.

These talk series constitute part of a projecta entitled “Cultures, Ecologies and Economies of Oil: A Critical Exploration of the Lived Contradictions and Representations of Oil across Nations, Sectors, and Disciplines” - supported by SIAH (Southampton Institute of Arts and Humanities).   You can find a succinct account of the nature and details of the project by clicking here.

The project comprises two chief components:  

(1) a series of paneled talks and workshops running between the 30th of June and 30th of July. These talks will include scholars such as Imre Szeman, Sharae Deckard, Stephen Shapiro, Kaveh Ehsani, Ian Wereley, Stephen Morton, Macarena Gomez-Barris, and Penelope Plaza.  

(2) an international festival (specific oriented to visual arts with a specific focus on graphic designs, posters and other relevant modes and branches) on the topic of Oil Cultures and Oil Ecologies. The announcement and further information concerning the festival will be released and disseminated separately later this month. 

This first event will include three scholars: Macarena Gomez-Barris, Kaveh Ehsani, and Ian Wereley.  

These three scholars variously specialize in interdisciplinary methodologies and approaches to the questions of the histories, cultures and economies of the nations and peoples that depend on fossil fuel and other resources extraction in the context of a globally extended capitalist system. Please find attached below a concise account of each speaker’s talk.  

Dr Kaveh Ehsani (Associate Professor in International Studies, DePaul University, US) will be talking about the biopolitics and infrastructures of oil in Iran in the early 20th century. His talk is concerned with articulating a micro history of Abadan in the 1920s , seeking to elaborate how the local politics of infrastructure shaped the wider relations between the oil company, local population in Abadan and the Iranian central government.  

Professor Macarena Gomez-Barris (Professor and Chairperson of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York) will focus on various facets of the notion and phenomenon of the “zones of extraction” in the context of Latin American cultures and nations.  

Dr Ian Wereley (Lecturer in History of Energy at Carleton University, Canada and Executive Director of Canadian Association for Graduate Studies) will present his critical reflections on “Unearthing Oil, Burying Culture: British Oil Company Marketing and the Commercial Conquest of Persia, 1900-1925”.  

Summary of Dr Ian Wereley's talk:  This presentation explores the publicity and advertising campaigns undertaken by the British Petroleum Company (BP) during the first quarter of the twentieth century, focusing specifically on the “Persian Series” of newspaper advertisements and the Persian Khan exhibit mounted at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924–1925. Despite their rich value as primary sources, the marketing campaigns of British oil companies—and in particular of BP—have been relatively overlooked by historians and energy scholars. Using an energy humanities approach, this presentation reconstructs the Khan exhibit and its galleries, revealing an imaginary world in which oil was framed as an exotic prize held captive beneath wild and inhospitable landscapes that were ripe for imperial takeover. As BP’s most elaborate and expensive advertising campaign of the 1920s, seen and visited by millions of spectators, the Persian Khan exhibit provides a valuable lens through which to view the broader development of British attitudes toward oil during the period. I will argue that BP marketing activities sought not only to sell more product to motorists, but also to diminish and erase Persian culture in the mind of the British consumer in order to pave the way for deeper and increasingly more violent commercial expansion in the region. 

For more information regarding this event please email Alireza Fakhrkonandeh.

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