How does the group that calls itself “Islamic State” communicate?
How has Islamic State been understood and contested

This special section on Mediating Islamic State gathers emergent scholarly voices, many deploying humanistic inquiry, to probe a phenomenon that has predominantly been the province of social scientists, in order to explore and understand the players, patterns, and practices that have mediated Islamic State: the communicative ways in which the group has been studied, reported on, visualized, narrated, mocked, spoofed, and resisted. We use “mediation” rather than “media” to shift public discourse on Islamic State beyond the focus on technology that has characterized research on media and sociopolitical change generally, and Islamic State communication in particular. Mediation connotes a broad approach to media, which includes words, images, bodies, platforms, and the expressive capacities and meaning-making practices that communicators generate when they deploy these media.

Originally presented at the Third Biennial Symposium of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, contributions tackle popular culture as a dynamic context for meaning creation, within a framework of media and culture as formative of identity and community, and not merely as conveyors of ideas, images, and information. Grounded in CARGC’s mission to advance a global media studies that fuses multidisciplinary regional knowledge with theory and methodology in the humanities and social sciences, we hope this special section continues spurring critical conversations that promise a new understanding of the transnational nexus of communication, identity, and violence. Together, these articles suggest imaginative avenues to understand phenomena like Islamic State beyond the narrow lens of what communication scholars would call administrative research within a national security paradigm.

Co-edited by CARGC Director Marwan M. Kraidy and CARGC Project Coordinator Marina R. Krikorian, and including articles co-authored by CARGC Doctoral Fellows and Annenberg PhD students Heather Jaber and Mohammed Salih, this special section is a product of the Jihadi Networks of Culture and Communication (JINCS) research group at CARGC. Guided by an interdisciplinary theoretical framework developed by CARGC Director Marwan M. Kraidy for a book project funded by a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, JINCS has incubated original scholarly contributions that grasp the communicative activities of Islamic State and other radical groups from a broad, multi-disciplinary perspective. In addition to CARGC’s third symposium in 2018, JINCS has hosted several colloquia and workshops with graduate students from Annenberg and elsewhere in the world and published a several articles, briefs, and book chapters.

Read this new special section of 10 articles in the International Journal of Communication by clicking the titles below:

Mediating Islamic State − Introduction
Marwan M. Kraidy, Marina R. Krikorian

The Islamic State: Politics by Other Means
Yara M. Damaj

Toward a Protostate Media System: The Role of ISIS’s Content
Kareem El Damanhoury          

Islamic State War Documentaries
Nathaniel Greenberg

Iconic Socioclasm: Idol-Breaking and the Dawn of a New Social Order
Christoph Günther       

Theologians, Poets, and Lone Wolves: Mapping Medium-Specific Epistemologies of Radicalization
Brian T. Hughes

The Geopolitics of Television Drama and the War on Terror: Gharabeeb Soud Against Islamic State
Heather Jaber, Marwan M. Kraidy

Collaborative Media Practices and Interconnected Digital Strategies of Islamic State (IS) and Pro-IS Supporter Networks on Telegram
Michael Krona

Islamic State and Game of Thrones: The Global Among Tradition, Identity, and the Politics of Spectacle
Bashir Saade

Islamic State and Women: A Biopolitical Analysis
Mohammed Salih, Marwan M. Kraidy