Welcoming PhD Candidate Bita Mousavi as Fall 2023 Zahedi Fellow

Bita Mousavi

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, 1960-1990" is a history of dissent in Iran. In it, she argues that the contradictions and ambivalent promises of oil and developmental nationalism set the terms for conceiving of and critiquing the Iranian state. Both the Pahlavi state and the Islamic Republic of Iran pursued economic development with zeal, casting the construction of hydroelectric dams, agrobusinesses, and the redistribution of lands as a matter of sovereign rights to the nation’s natural body. In the process, oil took on the resonances of wealth, ease and power, fusing political power to nature and fostering a collective language for thinking about and critiquing the Iranian state in its relationship to the nation, nature, and wealth.  

As a Zahedi Fellow, Bita will research Ardeshir Zahedi’s correspondences with other heads of oil-exporting countries. She hopes to understand how oil elites used a language of sovereign rights and developmental nationalism to justify price hikes and development projects. She will also examine holdings at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives related to opposition groups, paying particular attention to how they juxtaposed oil abundance against economic crisis to critique the state. 

The Zahedi Family Fellowship is a 12-week residential fellowship with the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies and the Hoover Library and Archives at Stanford focused on the Ardeshir Zahedi Archives. Bita will give a public lecture on her research at the end of her residency (details to come in the fall quarter).