Ghazvinian, John 1974-

views updated

Ghazvinian, John 1974-


Born April 23, 1974, in Iran. Education: Brown University, B.A.; Oxford University, Ph.D.; also attended Harvard University.


Home—Philadelphia, PA. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, instructor in creative writing program. Also gives talks and lectures at universities in Great Britain and America.


Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Newsweek, Slate. com, Nation, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, New York Sun, New Statesman, TimeOut London, TimeOut New York, Travel Savvy, Let's Go: Europe, and mediabistro. com.


In Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, historian and journalist John Ghazvinian writes about the oil-rich states of sub-Saharan Africa. "It's a little known fact: the United States today imports more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia," stated interviewer Amy Goodwin in the Third World Traveler. In addition, she continued, "More than fifty billion dollars in foreign investment in African oil is expected [before 2010]." In order to find out what this significant investment in oil resources has meant to the populations of the countries involved, Ghazvinian traveled to the continent to record firsthand accounts of the impact of oil money on individual Africans. "Traveling through twelve African countries in total," wrote Dara O'Sullivan on the Armchair Interviews Web site, "the account is divided fairly evenly between the older oil powers such as Nigeria and Angola, and the newer oil states such as Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome." "Ghazvinian is a lucid and often elegant writer," declared Austin Merrill in the San Francisco Chronicle, "and he manages to transform the chaos that is African oil politics into a fascinating, entertaining and very readable book."

Ghazvinian's thesis is that, because much of the incoming oil money has been embezzled by corrupt politicians and local elites, populations within the African oil belt are fighting for a share of the profits. The journalist points out that the picture for many Africans is grim. "For Africa, frankly, the oil boom is probably not great news," Ghazvinian told interviewer Jamie Glazov. "At least thus far, it has proven more of a curse than a blessing for Africa's people." "In Nigeria," he explained to Glazoc, "it has resulted in an ugly insurgency fought over equitable distribution of oil wealth. In Angola, it has led to deep institutional corruption. In Gabon, it has made it difficult for the economy to diversify, creating a wealthy African emirate dangerously dependent on oil rents. In Congo-Brazzaville, it has fuelled a brutal civil war that killed 10,000 people." "When we tend to think of Africa, we tend to think of tragedy and suffering and misery, and oil," Ghazvinian told Goodwin. "And I was trying to bring a fresh approach to Africa. I was hoping that, if nothing else, oil might focus the attention of Americans on Africa…. I wanted to kind of get under the skin of the story a bit, really try to bring it to life."

Generally, critics celebrated Ghazvinian's work. "Untapped," declared Joel Kirkland in the Wilson Quarterly, "taps into our growing, converging anxieties about oil supply, national security, and global warming. But Ghazvinian and his fellow authors also shed light on an important question that Americans still rarely ask: What does our relentless hunger for oil mean for those who vie to feed it?" "Ghazvinian successfully depicts the harsh realities faced by these countries," reported Richard Drezen in Library Journal, "while refraining from offering simplistic remedies." "Part travelogue and part frontline political reporting," Ike Okonta concluded on the Orion Magazine Web site. "Untapped utilizes fine writing and perceptive observation to give us a cautionary tale of what the lethal mix of Big Oil and bad politics can do to the weak and unprotected."



Economist, April 21, 2007, "The Black Curse; Oil in Africa," p. 95.

Internet Bookwatch, June, 2007, review of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2007, review of Untapped.

Library Journal, May 1, 2007, Richard Drezen, review of Untapped, p. 85.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2007, review of Untapped, p. 75.

San Francisco Chronicle, April 15, 2007, Austin Merrill, "Oil Wealth Does Little to Ease Poverty in Africa."

Wilson Quarterly, summer, 2007, Joel Kirkland, "Oil's Final Frontier."


Armchair Interviews, (November 23, 2007), Dara O'Sullivan, review of Untapped.

BookLoons, (November 23, 2007), Michael Graves, review of Untapped.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (November 23, 2007), Julie Sobowale, review of Untapped., (November 23, 2007), Jamie Glazov, interview with John Ghazvinian.

John Ghazvinian Web site, (November 23, 2007), author biography.

Orion Magazine, (November 23, 2007), Ike Okonta, review of Untapped.

Third World Traveler, (November 23, 2007), Amy Goodman, interview with John Ghazvinian.

Watson Institute, (November 23, 2007), author biography.