This is How We See the War: Counter-narratives of the Conflict in Contemporary Jihadist Visuality

Giuseppe Previtali


Contemporary warfare, especially from a Western point of view, is more and more an issue of distance, surgical strikes, machine vision and collateral damages. This image of a technical and “clean” war has been largely criticized from a theoretical point of view by the forensic approach promoted by Weizman. In his inspections in war zones, he stresses the importance of a new sensibility towards the indexical nature of photography, promoting the necessity of a counter-narrative towards the Western ideology of war. After addressing these theoretical issues in the context of the contemporary debate in image theory, the essay will focus on how contemporary jihadism ends up adopting the same approach towards images, in order to produce a personal and specific counter-narrative of warfare. The re-appropriation of Western war images and the production of specific visual outputs by groups such as the so-called Islamic State, has a strong political value. This will be demonstrated analyzing images and videos produced by the Islamic State that are largely unknown to the Western public. Here IS’ shows a different face of contemporary warfare, constructing a complex and multi-layered counter-narrative that focuses on concepts such as victimhood and brutality.


terrorism; islamic state; visual culture; forensic architecture; jihad

DOI: 10.6092/issn.2280-9481/10492


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