Call for Papers: Oil in Saudi-Iranian Relations

1st Jul 2021 12:00 - 1st Jul 2021 12:00

In recent years a great amount of literature has been produced looking at the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran (Mabon, Keynoush, Mason, Fraihat, Rubin). In spite of this, little work has been done looking at the role of oil in the rivalry. In light of this, SEPAD plans to hold a workshop looking at the role of oil within relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

Saudi Arabia and Iran have dramatically different experiences regarding their oil industries. The Saudi oil industry started with its discovery in 1938 under the control of American oil companies and completed its nationalisation process with mutual consent. In contrast, Iran’s oil industry was shaped by broader experiences of external actors in Iran, notably the UK.  We can discuss the extent to which this different historical experience of both countries affected their divergent approaches on working with foreigners in oil industry and their divergent policies vis-à-vis the US.   

This workshop seeks to question how the presence of rich petroleum resources in Saudi Arabia and Iran has affected relations. Oil is not merely an energy commodity that is traded in particular price and amount but a space in which Saudi-Iran relations have been shaped. Taking the insights from the historical, sociological and international analyses, we can see how oil has become a space in Saudi-Iranian relations and whether the domestic or international factors are more influential/prevail over the process of oil’s being a space.     

To understand the ways in which oil has become as a space, we welcome papers that reflect on the following themes:

  • The impact of oil on the social fabric of each state
  • The historical dimensions of oil within and between states
  • The impact of oil on sectarian divisions in each state
  • The role of external actors in developing oil industries within and between states 
  • The ways in which oil opens up new spaces for rivalry and possible rapprochement

In pursuit of this we welcome abstracts of 300 words to be sent to Sukru Cildir (  by 7th May 2021 ahead of a workshop to beheld in July (date TBC). We hope to hold this event in as a hybrid event albeit contingent upon circumstances.