No Cadillac Country: Oil, Sovereignty, and Development in Pahlavi Iran

Bita Mousavi
Thu December 7th 2023, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Event Sponsor
Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies
Event is open to
Experience Type

Join us for the third Zahedi Family Fellow lecture by the Fall 2023 Zahedi Fellow, Bita Mousavi. Light lunch will be served. 

The 1960s were a period of both crisis—oil gluts, inflation, depleting foreign reserves—and state centralization for Iran. Using the papers of former Foreign Minister and Iranian Ambassador to the UK and US Ardeshir Zahedi, Bita Mousavi follows Iran’s negotiations with oil companies and their governments to show how Pahlavi officials seized on the disruptions of the decade to expand state power through development. By insisting on development, a Cold-War imperative demanding astronomical state expenditure, they countered the efforts of oil companies to suppress national pricing and production. In the process of arguing for increased oil revenues, which Iran insisted it needed not for “Cadillacs or castles” but building the nation, petrostates like it spearheaded the movement for sovereign rights over natural resources. Yet as this story illustrates, even as the Pahlavi state asserted its sovereignty, Iran’s economy remained tied to an international system of extraction and its financial institutions.

Bita Mousavi is a PhD Candidate in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. Her dissertation, “The Parasitic State: Nature, Wealth, and the Iranian Nation, 1900-1990,” builds on studies of state power in oil states like Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia to argue that Iran’s position as a petrostate, where wealth derives from the international consumption of its mineral riches, has produced both claims and objections to political power rooted in the state’s management and allocation of natural resources.

If you need a disability-related accommodation for this event, please contact us at iranianstudies [at] (iranianstudies[at]stanford[dot]edu).  Requests should be made by November 29, 2023.