In recent years, Jihadi-Salafi actors have been particularly successful with their audio-visual media productions and their dissemination via social media. Through complex and multi-layered media offerings, they want to convey their beliefs, values and norms, their ideology-based interpretation of reality and their understanding of religion, power and society to a broad audience. In particular, the elaborately produced videos are intended to appeal to different audiences through their aesthetics, but also by way of their specific themes and narratives. In addition, these videos are advertised on social media and are integrated into communicative contexts in which the Jihadi-Salafi background is not always clearly recognizable or, for example, receives increased attention due to its overtly violent content.
At the same time, a range of actors engage with these communicative propositions both interpretatively and creatively. Artists, activists, journalists, researchers as well as Muslim experts and net activists also use a broad variety of textual, acoustic, and audio-visual means to engage with Jihadi-Salafi media. Through these discursive and digital-media references, they contribute to the configurations, interpretations and interactions that evolve around Jihadi-Salafi media production and thus also become part of the field of research Jihadi Audiovisualities and their Entanglements.
This field of research is the primary epistemic interest of the interdisciplinary junior research group Jihadism on the Internet: Images and Videos, their Appropriation and Dissemination. Seven researchers with a background in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Media and Film Studies, Islamic Studies, and Media Informatics collaboratively examine what Jihadi-Salafi communicate through (moving) images, how they communicate it and in what ways people engage with these propositions.
Our research combines ethnographic methods with new digital methods in the humanities and social sciences along five epistemological axes:
- Logical and discursive structures based on which actors structure their thinking and acting.
- Audio-Visual media and their configurations in speech, sound and image acts as well as their formal aesthetic and rhetorical structuring.
- Actors involved in the production, distribution or engagement with Jihadi Audiovisualities.
- Actions and practices of actors.
- Contextual factors as variables influencing actions and practices on a social and media level.
Our goal is to identify specific logics and media strategies in Jihadi-Salafi audiovisual media and ensuing user generated content, which may be affirmative of or in opposition to the former. We are particularly interested in which procedures and references are used that can influence attractiveness, acceptance and potential effects of any of these media. Using methods of media ethnography, we also want to find out in which ways this content plays a role in the everyday lives and media practices of (young) people both online and offline.
The findings of the project can complement media or radicalization research. First and foremost, they provide an insight into the significance of Jihadi-Salafi messages in the lives of users of digital media and the communicative interdependencies that arise from the manifold ways in which people engage with this material. In the medium term, our observations will be transferred to an online platform, where we will provide information for political education, prevention projects or press offices and political decision-makers.
Dr. Christoph Günther
Department of Anthropology and African Studies
Forum universitatis 6
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz