Ajam Podcast #16: Persian Gulf Modernities Before Oil

Thanks to our amazing supporters of our recent crowdfund, Ajam will now be producing and releasing regular podcasts. To download the episode, subscribe to us in the iTunes store,  Spotify Podcasts, and Google Play.

In this episode, Rustin speaks with Lindsey Stephenson, who is currently conducting postgraduate research at Princeton University and the new host of Ajam’s new Indian Ocean podcast series.

The Indian Ocean series explores topics related to the Islamo-Arabic and Persianate world from the perspective of the Indian Ocean littoral and the people who traversed its waters. These conversations aim to rethink narratives of history and culture, which have been traditionally boxed in by land-based territorial demarcations and regional studies frameworks. This series invites listeners to imagine the complex interconnectedness of life from East Africa to Southeast Asia and beyond.

In the first Indian Ocean series episode, Dr. Stephenson discusses her research on pre-oil mobility and modernity in the Persian Gulf, as well as its connections to the Indian Ocean at large. While many people think that modernity came to the Gulf when oil was discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century, Lindsey demonstrates that global markets, labor demands, and capital from the date and pearling industries led to massive changes in the social, political, and legal spheres of the Persian Gulf many decades earlier.


Lindsey Stephenson

Lindsey Stephenson (PhD, Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University) is a social and legal historian of the Middle East and Indian Ocean. Her work focuses on sovereignty, mobility, and identity in the Persian Gulf. She is currently conducting postgraduate research at Princeton University.

Lindsey (@linds_e_yo) on Twitter



Rustin Zarkar

Ajam Editor

Rustin (@RustinZ) on Twitter


  1. Lindsey…so so smart! Great interview. Proud to perhaps played a part in lighting the fire.
    I would love to be part of these discussions…my two books Foundations..and Ottoman Refugees…tried to bring the Ottoman Empire story.

  2. Great episode, I was wondering what the song was that was used? It sounded like gulf arabic before the interview began proper. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *