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Football and Culture Wars: The Case of Qatar World Cup 2022

6 hour course by Leif Stenberg (Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations) and Umut Özkırımlı (Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals & Blanquerna - Universitat Ramon Llull)

  • Schedule: 5, 6 & 7 July (14:00-16:00)
  • Venue: Blanquerna

Quite a few eyebrows were raised on December 2, 2010, when the then FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced Qatar as the winner of the bid to host the 2022 World Cup at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, making it the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament. Not that it was unexpected. FIFA always found it easier to work with absolute monarchies or authoritarian regimes than, say, Western-style democracies. In this particular case, Qatar was more successful in lobbying than its competitors, using its enormous wealth to secure the support of the Arab League, and positioning itself as the representative of the whole Arab World. And yet detractors remained, and discontent grew in the months leading up to and during the World Cup. The country's dismal human rights record, its treatment of LGBTQ+ people, the working conditions of migrant workers, the ban on alcohol, combined with more mainstream culture-war related issues such as racial justice (English players taking the knee) or gender equality (Iranian team protesting the murder of Mahsa Amini) made Qatar World Cup 2022 much more than a football tournament. The aim of this course is to use this momentous and, in many ways, singular event to study the interplay between football, culture and politics, laying special emphasis on the ways in which football became the latest battleground of the much-talked-about “culture wars”. 

Leif Stenberg
Dean of the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

Dr Stenberg received his PhD in Islamic Studies from the Lund University, Sweden in 1996 with the publication of his award-winning thesis entitled 'The Islamization of Science: Four Muslim Positions Developing an Islamic Modernity". ​He was an Assistant Professor at Uppsala Univ​ersity, Sweden for a year and a visiting scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University from 1997 to 1999. From 1999 to 2000, he was a visiting scholar at the Institut Français d'Études Arabes de Damas (IFEAD) in Damascus, Syria. From 2001, he was teaching Islamology at Lund University.​

In 2007, he was appointed as the director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Lund University. His research interests include contemporary interpretations of Islam in Sufism, interpretations of Islam among Muslims in Europe, developments within political Islam, and Islam and modern science​​.

Umut Özkırımlı
Senior Research Fellow at IBEI, Professor at Blanquerna – Universitat Ramon Llull, and Senior Research Associate at CIDOB (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs).

Before relocating to Barcelona, he was a Professor at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Lund University. He is the author of Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000; second revised and extended edition 2010. Translated into Turkish, Greek, Arabic, Persian, Albanian); Contemporary Debates on Nationalism: A Critical Engagement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Translated into Turkish and Chinese); Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey (with Spyros A. Sofos, Hurst & Co. and Oxford University Press, 2008. Translated into Turkish and Greek). His latest books are The Making of a Protest Movement in Turkey: #occupygezi (edited collection, Palgrave Pivot, 2014) and Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (third revised and extended edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).