The Politics of Oil: State, Economy, and Geopolitics
From its early exploitation by American and British speculators to the two Iraq wars, oil has structured the history of the modern Middle East in fundamental ways. In this course, we will examine the pivotal role of oil resources, companies, and energy demands in shaping state and society in the region. We will ask: What types of political and social formations does oil make possible? How does the story of oil fit within a broader history of humans and energy sources, from wood to coal to renewables like wind and solar? How does the production and circulation of oil shape U.S. and Middle Eastern geopolitics and grand strategy? And, what does the depletion of oil resources mean for a region so long reliant on its extraction and global flows? Is there a future after oil?
Along the way, we will revisit classic theories about rentier states and newer ones about “oil wars,” probing the ways in which oil facilitates—and possibly even necessitates—different forms of political control and violence. The class will feature texts by a wide range of scholars—from Daniel Yergin The Prize to Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy and Robert Vitalis’s America’s Kingdom, among others—alongside Abdul Rahman Munif’s iconic novel Cities of Salt, the first volume of which we will read in its entirety over the course of four weeks.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
November 17 — December 08, 2020