Visual Techniques for Counter-Jihadi Narratives: Islamic State's Self-Representational Photographs in Rumiyah Magazine

Maria Mahdessian, 2019





Islamic State (IS)’s self-representational photographs elicit and modulate to aspire its audience’s perception and emotions to join the group. Its agility and ability to appeal to young adults and to radicalize them urges experts to effectively counter jihadi narratives. This research investigates how the understanding of affect techniques employed by IS can ameliorate the development of deradicalization and prevention campaigns. In the current state of this research I have identified two themes within IS’s self-representational photographs: Heroization of Fighters and Allegorization of Women. The first theme plays on notions of IS fighters’ bravery, strength and heroism. Whereas, the visuals representing women exclude any depiction of women, and instead these visuals are of elements reinforcing the expected behavior to construct devout women, who are subordinates to IS fighters. I can so far conclude that IS manipulates preconceived ideas of heroes, Hollywood and shooter video game styles, elements of Islam, Islamic traditions and identity. Now that I have an understanding of the visual rhetorics violent extremist groups such as IS adopt, I will analyze the visual rhetorics of existing counter-jihadi narrative campaigns to understand what visual techniques they employ to affect their target audience. As there is a lack of research from a design-discipline perspective—particularly of visual techniques that would effectively counter jihadi narratives—I view this as an important step to effectively assist in developing designs for counter-narratives and radicalization prevention activities.