GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
2010, 2022
Paper Proposal Text :
Grant Farred.

Cornell University.

“2010, 2022.”
At least one worker, at the time of writing, engaged in the construction of stadia and related building, has been killed in Brazil’s preparation for hosting World Cup 2014. There has been some outcry, understandable and justifiable, to be sure. Given the security concerns raised
by the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, one can only imagine the scrutiny that Russia will be subjected to when its turn arrives in 2018. It is impossible to conceive that the “threat” which derives from the Caucuses – assigned, loosely speaking, the name of “Islam” (as in “terrorism,” “Islamic anger” at its nineteenth-century displacement from what is today southern Russia, and so on) – will have been satisfactorily resolved by then. Will the Chechnyan “question” really be resolved by then? Will Moscow and St. Petersburg be safe from “terror” four short for players, officials and fans from now, given Russia’s renowned intransigence and its nominal gestures (releasing dissidents – politicians, musicians) on the eve of Sochi notwithstanding? In a salient way, Islam has established itself, inadvertently (or not), as the central theme of and for the World Cup after 2014.
Such matters are open to speculation. However, Qatar, which will only host the World Cup in 2022, three tourneys away, has already found itself the target of intense critique. Issues ranging from the environmental safety (can the health of the players and officials, to say nothing of the fans, be guaranteed in the extreme temperatures of June and July in Qatar?) to World Cup history (hosting venues are required to offer more than a single viable site; outside of Doha, Qatar does not seem to have much on offer, currently; playing in domed rather than open air stadia, so that health returns as a preeminent concern for FIFA and the local organizers) to charges of corruption (at what price, through what means, was the right to host acquired?) have swirled around the 2022 World Cup almost since the tournament was awarded to Qatar. This controversy has involved everything from reassigning the World Cup to debates (especially in Britain) about rearranging the schedule of the domestic season in Europe (where the game’s administrative power resides); this derives from the health issues since it is deemed safer for the players in December rather than in the blazing heat of a Qatar July.
The critique of Qatar stands in sharp contrast to the largely positive treatment afforded South Africa when it hosted the 2010 World Cup. 2010 was a historic event. It was, of course, not the first time that the World Cup was assigned a nation outside of the Europe-America’s axis (and even in this regard it meant, with the exception of 1994 when the USA hosted, either a European nation – Italy, Germany, France, England – or a Latin American one – Chile, Brazil, Argentina). That honour belonged to South Korea and Japan, in 2002 (historic of course for also being the first jointly hosted tourney). 2010 marked the first turn to the decolonized black world, made all the more memorable and venerable for being South Africa, a nation newly emerged into a non-racial democracy from its apartheid past. For all rhetorical intents and purposes (to ignore, just for a moment, the resident racialized populations of Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina), then, 2010 stands as the inaugural “black” World Cup. The Other, not too long ago colonized and non-sovereign, had finally emerged into full global enfranchisement.
This presentation explores, in a word, difference: why is it that South Africa was, in the main, a welcome event and Qatar is already, before its coming into itself, the subject of opprobrium, discontent, dissatisfaction? After all, the two regions (if South Africa might be allowed to function, metonymically, itself a problematic designation) share, broadly, a history of colonization and, most importantly, a peripheral relation to FIFA. What this difference provokes is the demand for an explanation, not only of exceptionality (South Africa is the African nation that can host because it conforms to Western modernity, what with its First World infrastructure, its signal place in the world’s political imagining – the strange after-life of apartheid) but of relationality: how does Doha stand in relation to Cape Town or Johannesburg? How are we to think these distinctly different responses to World Cups hosted by the Other? After all, Doha is the gleaming, high-tech capital of an advanced economy, a small nation that is massively (and disproportionately prosperous). If anything, Qatar is a more “ordered” society than South Africa. In both societies, the issue of the foreigner is a matter of contention. Qatar’s economy is built on migrant labour (“migrant” itself being a term that bears reflection, particularly in relation to “citizenship” and national belonging, to say nothing of it being the place of birth or origin for the “foreigner”) while South Africa has a blemished post-apartheid record as regards its hostile and sometimes violent treatment of foreigners from other African nations; South Africans have coined the term “amakweri-kweri” for black – never white – foreigners from Zimbabwe or Nigeria).
In footballing time, twelve years is the blink of an eye. But this is a period that bookends a historic era in international football and FIFA history: the time of the postcolonial subject (which applies, it must be said, in its own way to South Korea, and Japan, too). It is, as has been suggested, best understood as the time which requires us to locate Gulf-Africa relations at the core of our thinking of the way in which the world’s game, “joga bonito,” the “beautiful game,” as the Brazilians say, makes immanent a set of political relations that are not always in the forefront of our thinking. The prospect of 2022, already positioned as the event of political difficulty before us, returns us, at once despite and because of itself (because of its resonant historicity), to its ideological and historic antecedent: South Africa. 2022 is the event of international consternation that cannot, will not, stand by itself. Its resonances far exceed itself, bringing 2010 back into view as that political disruption that provokes 2022, its true political successor, into a new mode of thinking the World Cup. Brazil, of course, has its own evocations, and Russia will surely offer singular provocations. But they are merely, relatively speaking, bridges to the salient ways in which 2010 is indubitably linked – links us – to 2022. The way to Doha, to the Gulf, in footballing terms, must wend its way through Cape Town. In itself, such a conundrum bears thinking about.