The Discursive Construction of ISIS Identity: A Critical Discourse Analytic Study of ISIS Textbooks

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Kharbach, Mohamed
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Over the last few years, ISIS terrorism has been the subject of a growing interdisciplinary scholarship, one that was disproportionately focused on the group‘s media discourse covering topics such as ISIS propaganda, its recruitment and communication strategies, the group’s use of digital technologies and social media, among others. However, unlike its media discourse, ISIS textbook discourse received scant research attention. The present study seeks to address this gap by shifting the analytic focus to the group’s curricular materials. The purpose was to explore the ‘pedagogic’ dimension of ISIS terrorism through the study of ISIS textbooks using an identitybased critical discourse analytic framework. To this end, five ISIS textbooks were analyzed. Analysis was conducted at two levels: the narrative level and the discursive level. Findings highlighted three main identity models embedded in ISIS textbook discourse: the collective identity model, the religious identity model, and the jihadi identity model. Drawing on the interpretative framework of social identity theory, these models were found to be at the core of a divisive social categorization process used the by the terrorist group to create an antagonistic and dichotomous worldview, one in which the Other is demonized and vilified. ISIS terrorism, this study concluded, is identity-based and draws on the canonical power of a highly religious curricular discourse to indoctrinate young learners and to manufacture future jihadist.
ISIS, terrorism, media discourse