The Islamic State’s symbolic war: Socially mediated terrorism as a threat to cultural heritage: Da’esh’s socially mediated terrorism as a threat to cultural heritage

Claire Smith, Heather Burke, Cherrie De Leiuen, Gary Jackson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    25 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Using the Islamic State/Da’esh as a case study, we identify the genesis of a new form of terrorism arising from the convergence of networked social media and changes in the forms of conflict. Socially mediated terrorism is defined as ‘the use of social and networked media to increase the impact of violent acts undertaken to further a social, political and/or religious cause with the aim of creating physical, emotional or psychological suffering that extends beyond the immediate audience’. Our analysis distinguishes three strategies involving cultural heritage. The first is smoke, mirrors and mock destruction, which exaggerates perceptions of power and tests the impact of potential destruction. The second is shock, awe and censure, which uses international outrage to cloak the Islamic State with an aura of invincibility and highlight the impotence of its opponents. The third is financing the Kaliphate, which has transformed the ad hoc looting of archaeological sites into a business model. Iconoclasm has a lengthy history in which cultural icons were destroyed with the primary aim of subjugating local populations/ audiences. In contrast, the Islamic State’s promotion of cultural heritage destruction through networked social media is directed simultaneously towards local, regional, and international audiences with reactions from one audience used to subdue, embolden or intrigue another. As such, networked social media can be viewed as a fresh - and currently under-rated - threat to cultural heritage in conflict zones. Finally, we draw attention to Bevan’s (2012) notion that crimes against cultural property can provide an early warning of potential genocide.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)164-188
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
    Volume16
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

    Keywords

    • Cultural genocide
    • Cultural heritage
    • Islamic state
    • Networked media
    • Social media
    • Terrorism

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