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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Sanaz Sohrabi, Humanities

Unearthing the Substrata of Images: Archives and Counter-Archives of Extraction in Iran

Date & time
Thursday, July 25, 2024
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Nadeem Butt

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


Unearthing the Substrata of Images: Archives and Counter-Archives of Extraction in Iran is a research-creation project that engages with the history of photography and film practices of the British controlled oil operations in Iran. My doctoral project examines how photography and film became the two primary cultural tools of the oil company, shaping a totalizing logic of representation around resource extraction, constructing an image regime of oil that worked in tandem with the uneven techno-racial organization of labor production in Iran. This project investigates the media practices of the oil company and their consolidation and centralization into British Petroleum’s (BP) official archives in the present moment as a form of epistemic violence. In doing so, it posits the visual technologies of photography, film, and archives utilized by the BP as embodied technologies of eradication and dispossession that have long narrativized and represented the history of British extractive history and its colonial oil operations in Iran and broader Asia. In my doctoral thesis, I argue that the link between extractivism and technologies of vision is historical, material, and ideological. Once we look at the historical continuum and lounge durée of extractivism from a representational standpoint, visuality, authority, and the archive become inseparable from the political economy of oil. Moreover, this project seeks to examine the archival temporalities and evidentiary aesthetics enmeshed in the ethnographic photography and film practices of the early British colonial explorations of oil in Iran. In conjunction with my scholarly research, my doctoral research-creation project is also a practice-based exploration of these contested archival materials through the production of documentary essay films, photographic collages, and multimedia installations, offering a multidisciplinary approach to examine and reconstruct the visual history of oil and recover untold histories of colonial petromodernity in Iran.

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