Call for Papers | ‘The History of Sport in the Arab world’, a Special Issue of The International Journal of the History of Sport | Call ends February 28, 2024

As Ottoman influence began to wane across the Arab world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the resultant vacuum was filled by European powers intent on increasing their colonial empires. Sport played a significant role in this expansion, asserting European superiority while simultaneously inculcating within the native inhabitants what were deemed properly civilised behaviours. However, a cultural renaissance was also underway in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East during this period that was becoming increasingly apparent on the same football pitches and sports clubs as local elites sought to galvanise their fellow citizens and create new, independent nations. This marked the beginning of a rich tradition of western sports in the Arab world that has existed now for over a century and culminated in Qatar’s hosting of the world’s most watched sporting event in 2022, the FIFA World Cup.

A combination of sporting success, achievement, controversy, and at times tragedy has defined the intervening period for many Arab nations as they participated in various Olympiads, World Cup tournaments, and other regional events. At a domestic level, sport played a significant part in transforming those same societies across the Arab world, instigating unexpected change by reshaping not just the physical landscape but also the values and ideals of the citizenry. For some, sport became an effective tool in nurturing national identities and desired values. For others, it was a beacon of resistance in the face of unprecedented violence. Although at times viewed with suspicion by political and/or religious institutions, sport also showed itself to be a great unifier in times of crisis.

However, the number of sporting histories detailing these events is noticeably small and heavily skewed towards North Africa and the Levant. Such paucity is even more prominent when one attempts to seek out sporting histories of the Gulf States, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Yemen, whether in journal article form or standalone text. This in turn has given life to a claim often made before and during the recent Qatar World Cup that Arab countries do not have a history of sport. Ultimately, sport lies at the heart of Arab society and this special issue aims to highlight this by encouraging readers to think differently about the emergence and existence of sport in the region. It seeks to explore the complex historical place of sport in the Arab world, one that has existed for generations but widely neglected by sports studies.

We welcome submissions from historians, sports scholars, and other researchers of individual articles of up to 8000 words that discuss, examine, or review the historical presence, place, and function of sport in Arab society. We especially encourage Arab scholars and researchers to contribute to this call by taking postcolonial, decolonial, and/or diasporic approaches. Research articles might focus on one of the following indicative themes, or others at the author’s discretion:

      • Traditional/heritage sports in the Arab world
      • Community sports and sports as development
      • Sport and the civil society
      • Sport, nationalism, transnationalism, and the nation-state
      • Sport and politics/diplomacy/international relations
      • Spectators, sporting spaces, and sport institutions
      • Arab sport clubs and/or athlete performance
      • The Olympic Movement in the Arab world
      • Sport as a form of protest/resistance
      • Sport governance
      • Sport and identity
      • Sport and the diaspora/migration
      • Sport and education
      • Sport and religion
      • Sport and gender
      • Sport and the body
      • Representations of sport in Arab media (newspapers, magazines etc)
      • Event hosting in the Arab world
      • Arab participation and success in the Asian Games, the Asian Cup, the Pan-Arab Games, and other regional events

Timeline and submission Instructions

      • Call for abstracts (CfP) deadline: Feb 28, 2024.
      • Acceptance of abstracts: April 30, 2024.
      • First drafts: October 31, 2024.
      • Final manuscripts: April 30, 2025.

Submission of abstracts: Send the abstract to Ross Griffin (rgriffin@qu.edu.qa) before February 28, 2024. Abstracts must be in English and 300 words (maximum) excluding the title and authors.

Contact Information

Dr Ross Griffin
Associate Professor of American & postcolonial literature
Department of English Literature & Linguistics
College of Arts & Sciences
Qatar University, Qatar


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