Sreemati Mitter Kutayba Alghanim Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History and International and Public Affairs

Sreemati Mitter is the Kutaiba alGhanim Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History and International and Public Affairs at Brown University. She is completing her first book, entitled “A History of Money in Palestine: From the 1900s to the Present.” Her work examines the economic and monetary dimensions of statelessness. Her broader academic interests include the economic, social, and political history of the modern Middle East.

Mitter was a post-doctoral research fellow in history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST), at the Toulouse School of Economics in Toulouse, France, from 2014-2016. She received her Ph.D. in history from Harvard University’s history department in 2014 and an AM in history from the same department in 2008. She earned a Master's in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2005, and a BA in Economics from Middlebury College in 1999. She previously worked for the Palestine Investment Fund in Ramallah, Palestinian Territories and at Credit Suisse in New York, for the Energy and Project Finance Group of its Investment Banking Division.

 

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

research overview

Current book project: A History of Money in Palestine: From the 1900s to the Present

Second book project: From Private to Public: A History of Energy Sector Nationalizations in the Middle East in the 20th Century

research statement

I am currently working on a book entitled A History of Money in Palestine: From the 1900s to the Present. My work in this book focuses on the relationship between economic behavior and statelessness. I explore how the condition of statelessness, which is usually thought of as a political problem, affects the economic and monetary lives of ordinary people. I approach this question by examining the economic behavior of a stateless people, the Palestinians, over a hundred year period, from the last decades of Ottoman rule in the early 1900s to the present. Through this historical narrative, I investigate what happened to the financial and economic assets of ordinary Palestinians when they were either rendered stateless overnight (as happened in 1948) or when they suffered a gradual loss of sovereignty and control over their economic lives and assets (as happened between the early 1900s to the 1930s, or again between 1967 and the present). Finally, I explain how the sustained absence of a sovereign state and a sovereign currency of their own affected the Palestinians’ economic behavior and shaped their relationship to the monetary and banking apparatus of the various political regimes under which they lived.

My second book project, From Private to Public: A History of Energy Sector Nationalizations in the Middle East in the 20th Century, will expand on the same questions I explore in my current work as to the relationship between political sovereignty and economic behavior, while broadening the geographical scope of my work to include north Africa and Iran. This project draws directly from my own experience of working for the Palestinian Authority, during which time I was tasked with monetizing a Palestinian gas field located off the coast of Gaza. In the course of my work, the claim that these gas reserves ought to be nationalized came up repeatedly, and it was during these episodes that I came to be interested in writing a history of the energy-sector nationalizations that have transformed the economic and political landscape of the Middle East since the 1950s. Starting in Persia in 1901 with an account of how the D’arcy Oil Concession, the first oil concession in the Middle East, came about, I will go on to investigate how the other, later, concession agreements were written. I will then turn my attention, in the second half of the book, to explaining how and why they were torn up. In so doing, I will explore why the question of western corporate ownership and investment in the natural resources of the region remains so fraught, and I will attempt to explain how it feels – and what it means – to the ordinary people of the region to “give up ownership” and sovereign control over their natural resources. Beginning the second half of the book in 1951, with Mossadegh’s decision to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian company, I will examine in turn the Iraqi, Algerian, and Egyptian energy sector nationalizations, before culminating in the Palestinian Gaza gas story.