Masters Thesis

Modernity, Wahhabi Islam, and monarchial power in Qatar exhibited in its contemporary art

The small, Middle Eastern, emirate of Qatar is economically advanced and internationally respected. It is ruled by the hereditary Al Thani monarchy who promote modernist goals (nationalism, central authority, moral superiority) within a regional narrative ostensibly on behalf of its privileged and Wahhabi-Islam citizenry. The minority Qatari rely heavily on their majority expatriate labor force, who exist within a postmodern condition. This thesis argues that as part of its cultural diplomacy objectives, the Al Thani monarchy uses its wealth to promote contemporary art both to maintain its power, and as a signifier of its modernity, progress, and international position as a sophisticated yet Islamic monarchy in an international global market, where democracy and postmodern sensibilities are the norm. Abstract expressionism and calligraphy in contemporary art are common in art venues and appeals to Qataris for both its nonobjective forms as well as its Islamic philosophical and historic roots.