Seminar "Fluid History: Oil Workers and the Iranian Revolution" & "The Brotherhood of Labor: Oil Capital, Masculinity, and the Making of the Lebanese Working Class"

Le 03/05/2023

with Peyman Jafari, William & Mary University Virginia, and Zachary Davis Cuyler, New York Univeristy

Fluid History: Oil Workers and the Iranian Revolution

When Iranian oil workers went on strike in October 2022 during the protests that emerged around the slogan ‘women, life, liberty’, observers were quick to make comparisons with the critical role of oil workers in the 1978-79 revolution. This paper looks at how and why the oil strikes of 1978 played a crucial role in the downfall of the Pahlavi monarchy and argues that these strikes were key to the emergence of institutions that facilitated the power transition to the Islamic Republic. In doing so, this paper makes three contributions: it recasts the relationship between oil and politics through labor history; demonstrates the contingent nature of Iran’s revolutionary outcome; and emphasizes the nature of revolutions as moments of possibilities. Finally, drawing on this historical analysis, the paper briefly discusses the potential of oil strikes in contemporary Iran.

Peyman Jafari is Assistant Professor of History and International Relations at the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia) and a research fellow at the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam). His research focuses on the relationship between empires, labor, and ecology in the global history of oil, the social history of revolutions and the role of the labor movement in contemporary Iran. He is the author of Der andere Iran: Geschichte und Kultur von 1900 bis zur Gegenwart (C.H. Beck, 2010). He has co-edited two volumes: Iran in the Middle East: Transnational Encounters and Social History (IB Tauris, 2015) and Worlds of Labor Turned Upside Down: Labor Relations and Revolutions in Global Perspective (Brill, 2021). His most recent publication is “Labour in the Making of the International Relations of Oil: Resource Nationalism and Trade Unions,” in Roland Dannreuther and Wojciech Osrowski (eds.), Handbook of Oil and International Relations (Edwar Elgar Publishing, 2022). He is currently writing a monograph titled Oil and Labor in the Iranian Revolution: A Social History of Uneven and Combined Development.

The Brotherhood of Labor: Oil Capital, Masculinity, and the Making of the Lebanese Working Class

This paper examines the labour history of Trans-Arabian Pipeline, or Tapline, a U.S.-owned pipeline company that carried Saudi crude to an oil terminal on the Lebanese coast. It shows how Lebanese Tapline employees developed nationalist and masculinist conceptions of the working class--which I term the “brotherhood of labor” – in confrontations with international oil capital.

Zachary Davis Cuyler is a PhD candidate at New York University. His work focuses on the historical and contemporary politics of infrastructure, energy, and the environment in the mashriq. His commentary has appeared in Middle East Report, Synaps, and L’Orient-Le Jour and his academic work has appeared in International Labor and Working-Class History, Historical Materialism, and the Arab Studies Journal. Zachary’s dissertation, “Fossil Lebanon,” examines how Lebanon’s relationship to the regional oil industry shaped the country’s politics, economy, and built environment.

May 3rd 2023 · 15H (CET)

Online on ZOOM. Register through the following link.

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