OCMELA (Oil Cultures of the Middle East and Latin America) is an interdisciplinary group that brings together area studies specialists among historians and art historians, cultural and literary studies specialists, and artists, bridging academic and artistic research.The group is a platform to put in conversation two key oil producing regions that have had a paramount influence in the making of the global worlds of oil, and in shaping economic and political relations between East and West, and North and South. OCMELA aims at de-centring petroleum’s Global North paradigm which has dominated the energy humanities and studies on petro-cultures and societies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

By opening new conversations on the Middle East and Latin America in the age of petroleum colonisation and decolonisation we seek on the one hand to highlight oil experiences in the Global South by kickstarting a South-South dialogue. On the other, we wish to adopt global perspectives on Middle Eastern and  Latin American oil by tracing historical patterns of circulation and connectivity across the globe, inviting cross-regional and trans-national research exchanges and collaborations.

Our history

OCMELA was established following the online conference “Experiences of Oil” at Stavanger Art Museum in November 2020. Since then, the group has held regular meetings online and has published a round-table conversation with Murtaza Vali on “Petromobilities in the Global South” in Ann Szefer- Karlsen and Helga Nyman, Experiences of Oil (Museumsforlaget, 2022).

In August 2022, OCMELA will be participating in the Petrocultures Conference 2022 with the panel “New petroleum perspectives from the Global South: Visualizing and Connecting Oil Cultures of the Middle East and Latin America”.