Ghazvinian was raised in London and Los Angeles. Born in Iran and currently lives in Philadelphia, he is known for his writing on African oil politics as the author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil (Harcourt, 2007), an exposé of the petroleum industry in Africa. Ghazvinian is currently Executive Director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Untapped has received widespread praise, particularly among progressives. Andrew Leonard at Salon wrote of the book that it "should be must reading for anyone who still believes that unregulated markets are the best way to cure all the ills of the poor nations of the world." The Boston Globe called Untapped a "riveting account and superb analysis of what African oil means to a fuel-hungry world and to the African nations involved." The New York Times called the book "perceptive" and said that it "drills home the point...that a thoughtful strategy to lift the neglected bottom billion must compete against the global oil giants going about their business."
Ghazvinian also writes for The Nation, Newsweek, GQ and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He is the author of America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (Knopf, 2021) as well as coeditor of American and Muslim Worlds before 1900 (Bloomsbury, 2020).
Ghazvinian earned his doctorate in history at Oxford University, and was the recipient of a "Public Scholar" fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2016-2017 as well as a fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation's special initiative on Islam in 2009–2010.
- Leonard, Andrew (May 5, 2007). "African oil: The real heart of darkness". Salon. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
- Muldow, Anna (May 6, 2007). "A fierce new thirst for Africa's treasure". The Boston Globe.
- Kotkin, Stephen (July 8, 2007). "In Africa, One Step Forward and Two Back". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
- , National Endowment for the Humanities, "National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Awards and Offers July 2016" 2016
- "The Curse of Oil" from The Virginia Quarterly Review
- "John Ghazvinian" from Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania
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