Department of History & School of History, Religions and Philosophies

Dr Mattin Biglari

Key information

Department of History Postdoctoral Fellow
BA (Hons) Cambridge; MA, PhD SOAS
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Support hours
Fridays 1.40-2.20pm


Mattin Biglari is a Research Associate and Teaching Fellow at SOAS. His research focuses on the intersection of energy, environment, infrastructure and labour, especially in the history of Iran and the Middle East. His doctoral thesis, which was awarded the 2021 BRISMES Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for best PhD dissertation, examines the technopolitics of knowledge in the history of the Iranian oil industry. Engaging with STS, postcolonial theory and subaltern studies, it argues that Iran’s oil nationalisation in 1951 stemmed from years of mundane struggles in the refinery town of Abadan, especially over the ontological basis of expertise. It illuminates how anti-colonialism, urban politics and labour activism coalesced in opposition to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and how this process culminated in the reproduction of colonial epistemologies even as the foreign oil company was expelled. His monograph based on this thesis entitled Refining Knowledge: Labour, Politics and Oil Nationalisation in Iran, 1933-51 will be published with Edinburgh University Press in 2023.

His current research engages with energy/environmental humanities from a postcolonial perspective, focusing on the proliferation of oil refining across the Indian Ocean during the ‘Great Acceleration.’ On the one hand, this project will ask how multinational oil companies negotiated local entanglements when faced with growing anti-colonialism and postcolonial aspirations, especially learning the lessons of Iranian oil nationalisation. On the other, it examines the extent to which these new refineries raised issues of pollution, toxicity and environmental justice for local populations, and how these figured in the decolonisation project on the ground. Alongside this, he is comparatively exploring visual cultures of oil through the working group Oil Cultures of Latin America and the Middle East (OCLAME).

He is also currently researching postwar development schemes in Iran in the context of the Global Cold War, especially the Near East Foundation as a model for the immunisation of communism and the Point Four programme. Previously he has written about banditry in Iran during the early twentieth century, examining its relationship to the country’s constitutional revolution and integration into the capitalist world economy. He has also published an article in Diplomatic History about how essentialist perceptions of Shi’a Islam as a religion of protest shaped U.S. foreign policy during the 1978-79 Iranian revolution, contextualised within the wider international history of the Global Cold War.

Mattin completed his PhD in History at SOAS in 2020. Previously he attained an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at SOAS and a BA in History at the University of Cambridge.




Research interests

  • Social and Cultural History of Modern Iran
  • Global History of Oil
  • History of Techno-politics
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Global Labour History
  • Criminality and Governmentality
  • Energy Humanities

Contact Mattin