The Islamic State's Gendered Propaganda: From Territorial Control to Insurgency

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

The unprecedented number of Western muhājirat (female émigrés) and male foreign fighters who travelled to Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Caliphate in Syria and Iraq renewed scholarly interest in how the propaganda campaigns of politically motivated violent movements reach out and appeal to transnational recruits. While research devoted to this trend has grown significantly, significant gaps remain concerning how and why gender is used in Islamic State propaganda to mobilise transnational audiences. This thesis analyses how and why Islamic State English-language propaganda constructs and manipulates gender to target and appeal to both female and male audiences. It situates these
gender dynamics within Islamic State’s broader propaganda and politico-military strategy to identify why women, men, and their stipulated gender roles are constructed to support Islamic State’s strategic objectives. Based on primary source analysis, this study engages in discourse analysis of fifty-one official Islamic State propaganda products spanning a period of success when it controlled territory and populations as a proto-state (May 2014 to July 2016) and a period of decline as it transformed into an insurgency (September 2016 to April 2019). This thesis argues that Islamic State propaganda leverages five female and seven male representations to maximise the effectiveness of its propaganda, and to construct a gender order strategically designed to advance the group’s strategic objectives. This study traces how as the groups strategic objectives and its politico-military actions change over time, the gender representations used in its propaganda also change. Furthermore, Islamic State
propagandists appear to leverage the symbiotic relationship between female and male representations to antagonistically empower and shame women and men to action. Overall, this thesis offers the field a multidisciplinary framework through which to analyse the gendered appeals in violent extremist propaganda, and in-depth analyses of how and why Islamic State English-language propaganda uses
gender to target and appeal to female and male audiences at macro-, meso-, and micro-levels, with important strategic-policy implications.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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