Session on Social Histories of Labour in the Iranian Oil Industry

Conference announcement, Washington, 1-4 December 2011
45th Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association
December 1-4, Washington DC

Social Histories of Labour in the Iranian Oil Industry

Panel Organiser: Touraj Atabaki, the International Institute of Social History

The panel brings together scholars who are working on the social history of the Iranian oil industry. The discovery of oil in Iran in 1908 created new social, political, economic and even cultural realities at local, national, regional and international levels. Now a century on, Iran's geopolitical role and significance continue to grow. In many fundamental ways, the commodity oil, and those producing it, has played a central role in shaping a model of development, of social mores and behaviours, of political and social relations in Iran, and beyond. This panel brings together for the first time scholars who are investigating the complex social and political impact of the oil industry on shaping modern Iranian history.

The oil industry in Iran has been formed within the network of several intertwined formative relations that have undergone major changes over the course of the twentieth century. Labour relations in Iran, especially in this key industrial sector, have been crafted by a series of changing relations between the national state and a major colonial entity (Anglo-Persian Oil Company 1908-1935, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company 1935-1954, British Petroleum 1954-present), between the national state and a consortium of multinationals (1954-79), between the national state and the local and national labour force employed in the industry, and between the oil company and its employees. These relations have, therefore, affected both labour formation and labour relations in substantially diverse ways and levels, at different historical junctures. The papers in this panel investigate these histories of labour in the Iranian oil industry from its early discovery at the dawn of the twentieth century to the present, from critical and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

1- Touraj Atabaki
>From Sarkar to Labour Office in the Iranian Oil Industry
The Position of Labour Intermediaries in the Early Labour Recruitment

2- Maral Jefroudi
Whither transition? The lifeworld of oil workers before and after Iran's 1951 oil nationalization.

3- Kaveh Ehsani and Mohammad Maljoo
Iranian Oil Workers in the Islamic Republic

4- Peyman Jafari
The political economy of oil and democratization in Iran: Revisiting the rentier state theory