Download programme (pdf)
– text version below –




14:00    Registration

15:00   Welcome Addresses

Prof. Dr. Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Prof. Dr. Matthias Krings, Advisory Board Member of the Centre for Intercultural Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

15:20    Introductory Note

Christoph Günther (Principal Investigator, Junior Research Group Jihadism on the Internet: Images and Videos, their Appropriation, and Dissemination)

16:00    Panel 1 Vocals in Jihadist Messages

Panel Abstract

In Jihadist audio-visual messages, a cappella hymns, so-called anāshīd, are an integral component; for they support spreading pictorial and textual codes, even across linguistic barriers. Hereby, anāshīd fulfil religious, cultural and social functions: They serve as a means for Jihadist groups and movements to establish religious ties, arouse a sense of belonging and construct collective identities. However, despite their wide use in Jihadist messages, anāshīd have hitherto only rarely been addressed in academic research. Therefore, this panel approaches the phenomenon of anāshīd from various angles, in order to better understand not only their musical and poetic structure, but also the religious, cultural and social contexts in which anāshīd are embedded.

Chair:               Alexandra Dick (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)


Ines Weinrich (University of Münster): “Nashid’ between Islamic Chanting and Jihadist Hymns: Continuities and Transformation

Nashīd with its English spelling nasheed and mediatised on the internet is a relatively new phenomenon. Nashīd as a musical practice, by contrast, is old. The paper will analyse nashīd both as a technical term and a vocal genre and its related performance practice. Today, the term nashīd is used for a wide variety of different musical manifestations, ranging from traditional praise songs and prayers to religious pop songs and military marches. The paper focuses on the developments since the early twentieth century and examines the musical roots and styles of the different types of nashīd that are known today. It will offer a brief glimpse into traditional practices of nashīd (i.e. inshād) and suggest a categorization for the different manifestations of nashīd today, based on musical characteristics and functions: a) early political hymns, b) traditional inshād, c) popularised nasheed and, finally, d) the anāshīd (sg. nashīd) of the Islamic political groups which draw from all three categories.

Jonas Otterbeck (Lund University): The Political Dimension of Islamic Pop-Anashid

Pop-anashid are generally not political in the sense that songs target political topics directly. Lyrics generally celebrate a middle class Islamic life style, praises Allah and Muhammad or are simply providing lyrics about friendship or the importance of being kind and generous. At times, issues like Palestine, being free or similar topics are addressed but it is less common even though it has become more frequent the last years. The political dimension of Pop-anashid is rather to be found in concerts held at political meetings and campaigns, and in the use of the music by political actors. With the help of theories on politics and music, not least from John Street’s Music and Politics (2012), this paper will look into the political side of the Islamic media company Awakening’s pop-anashid. The paper is based on interviews, media and content analyses and fieldwork focusing on Awakening.

Carin Berg (Analyst, Gothenburg): The Soundtrack of Politics in Hamas and Hizbullah

Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah are two major political players in the Middle East. Both movements are based on Islamic values and have from their foundation used anashid, Islamic chants, within their organizational work. Until recently, anashid was used sporadically and did not have a formalized function or management. In the past there was no clear vision for or management of anashid in the organizations. Such changed along a significant shift regarding the role of art in Islamic political organizations as a whole. Today Hamas and Hezbollah use and even produce anashid in an organized and controlled manner. But the anashid used in the name of the organizations must be classified as purposeful along their values in order to be permitted. Anashid will be highlighted in Hamas and Hezbollah today, how it has shifted from occasional unorganized usage towards a systematic organized function with specific management and how it relates to politics and religion.

18:00    Keynote: Protest Images. Images as Media of Protest.

(Presentation in German. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided upon request)

Kathrin Fahlenbrach (University of Hamburg)

Since images have become an essential element of news and reporting in journalistic mass media such as newspapers, magazines and television, they have also played a central role in political protest communication. The public significance of images found its first lasting expression in the student movement around 1968, which for the first time developed new mass media image strategies of public mobilization. Since then, photographic images in particular have become a decisive medium of public protest on a global scale – whether in the form of photographs or videos. The public significance of images found its first lasting expression in the student movement around 1968, which for the first time developed new mass media image strategies of public mobilization. On the one hand, the reasons for this lie in their media structure: the idea of documentability is still connected with photographic images today and they offer a concrete vividness, which – framed as a contestation – is also often emotionally connotated. On the other hand, images can be understood independently of language, what is particularly relevant in the online sphere. In addition, animations, graphics, and illustrations are used to make the goals and motifs of protest publicly evident. As symbols of protest, they often expressively condense ideals, values, and world views in pictorial form.
Based on basic media characteristics of images, the lecture will show various functions and potentials that they can unfold in public protest communication. Also taking into account historical and current examples, the change in protest images that can be observed with the change of the political (protest-)public through the Internet is to be considered. The aim is to look at both the opportunities and risks that activists and social movements face today when they disseminate standing or moving images in the online sphere.

19:00    Public Roundtable Discussion: From Satire to Social Work: How to deal with Jihadi Media?

(Discussion in German. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided upon request)


Kathrin Fahlenbrach (University of Hamburg)

Saloua Mohammed (Bonn)

Younes Al-Amayra (Berlin)


20:30    Dinner

Restaurant Baron, Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 3


09:00 – 12:00    Workshops

1.) Claudia Carvalho, Martijn de Koning, Annelies Moors, and Simone Pfeifer: Ethics and Strategies of Online Research on Jihadism

In recent years many researchers have turned to the internet to investigate propaganda and recruitment practices of Jihadists. The internet and in particular social media and messenger services have proven to be fruitful ground for new research and experiments to gain insights into the workings of the online Jihadi networks. This has also brought about new questions about research strategies, data management and methodologies. For example, how to maintain people’s privacy and anonymity? How to make clear online that one is a researcher? In particular since the research field of Jihadism has also become a very politicized and securitized field, the position of the researcher in relation to research ethics and security has become a major issue of debate. In this workshop we want to bring together researchers with experience in online research as well as dealing with the politicized and securitized nature of the field. We will first explore the more practical and strategical issues and then turn to the bigger questions regarding ethics and security. In so doing we want to contribute to a critical self-reflection and raising awareness among researchers about the possible consequences of doing online research on Jihadism.

2.) Alexandra Dick and Yorck BeeseThe Islamic State’s Audiovisual Branding

Since 2014 the Islamic State (IS) has successfully established its own audiovisual brand. Aiming for a high recognition value, even individual parts of this complex of sights and sounds imply the entire IS brand. Among these are hymns, sound effects and semantic relations in film language that serve to construct the IS on air identity.
Hymns, so-called anāshīd, function as powerful transmitters of ideological messages. Through their musical structure they convey emotions while referring to Islamic traditions as well as today’s pop cultural practices. This situates the IS both within mainstream Islam and youth culture despite the differences between them.
Visually the Islamic State has developed various ways to brand its rhetoric, notably by functionalizing camera actions, symbolism, and internal composition (to name only three) as part of its virtual stylesheet. Located in Syria and Iraq but also other countries such as Egypt, Nigeria and the Philippines the IS has attempted and (temporally) succeeded at establishing numerous media offices commissioned with the dissemination of its narratives and ideologemes.
The Jihadism on the Internet research group invites scholars and students alike to join them in working hands-on with audiovisual media produced by the Islamic State. Reflecting also on further branding strategies, this workshop aims at analysing IS media, outlining central aspects of its apparent stylistic guidelines, decoding the Islamic State’s media work, and revealing the rhetorical level at which its propaganda constitutes meaning.

3.) Chloé Galibert-Laîné, Kevin B. Lee, and Bernd Zywietz: Media (Text) Rhetoric and Video Essays: Dealing analytically and creatively with ISIS videos

Hardly anyone will doubt that online propaganda like the videos of so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS / ISIL / Daesh) poses a problem and, therefore, is a relevant subject both of scholarly examination and media education. However, less obvious is how to analytically or critically engage with extremist images and footage. This especially when it comes to its ‘aesthetic’ features, complexities as media texts or its aggressive-ideological messages and, sometimes, most explicit depictions of violence.
This workshop addresses possible approaches and methods, targeting not only film and media scholars and students but also non-academic practitioners e.g. in education, youth work or preventing radicalization. In the first section we introduce a media rhetoric informed way to systematically describe and analyze visual propaganda material to assess and compare e.g. several persuasive dimensions.
The second section will deal with video essays. Two well-known practitioners of this creative format of investigative analysis, Kevin B. Lee and Chloé Galibert-Laîné, will discuss how video essays can both be perceived as a form of presenting insight and used as a tool or method for critical (self-)reflection.

Venue: Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Forum universitatis 6

12:00    Lunch

Restaurant Baron, Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 3

13:00 – 14:30    Panel 2 Developments in Jihadist Propaganda: Appropriations of Media Dispositifs

Panel Abstract

Jihadist Propaganda is a recent phenomenon that develops swiftly: a combination of technical advances and the equalization of media work with Jihad on the battlefield has enabled Jihadist groups to produce propaganda on a massive scale. Via the appropriation of various media dispositifs the communication of ideology is significantly facilitated. Also, Jihadist media producers have long since discovered two new fields of work: on the one hand there are attempts to exploit computer games like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty for propaganda purposes. Thus Jihadization is driven by making Jihad a continuous immersive experience. On the other hand there is a vast number of avid media (re-)producers that keep IS-ideology alive even in times of military setbacks – they are, quite possibly, the propagandists of the future.

Chair:               Yorck Beese (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)


Charlie Winter (ICSR, London): A Semiotic Exploration of the Islamic State Image World

Michael Krona (Malmö University): The Theatre of the Grotesque – visual imagery and analysis of IS beheadings

The significance of visual propaganda and imagery in war and conflict, currently carried through popular social media platforms, has never been as debated as since the Islamic State (IS) started gaining global attention for its sophisticated media campaigns in 2014. Although IS visual propaganda contains a wide tapestry of narratives, the images and videos of beheadings have for years been at the center of attention, not only for scholars and politicians, but for supporters of IS ideological doctrines as well. In this graphic violence, behind the apparent theatre of the grotesque, lies deliberate choices in terms of image composition, lightning, camera-angles and overall editing techniques deployed for reaching maximum effect among its targeted audiences.
This paper aims to dissect this particular mediation of violence and critically engage in how IS strategically visualize beheadings as multilayered and multimodal cultural artefacts, produced with the dual aim of simultaneously inciting fear among adversaries while strengthening the in-group identity of the organization for its supporters. How photographs and moving images of beheadings of ‘apostates’ are designed is crucial in our understanding of the role of visual propaganda in contemporary warfare, but also for contributing to a larger discussion on the significance of this type of visual propaganda in radicalization processes.
The paper is based on narrative and visual analysis of beheading videos and photographs produced and disseminated by IS official media wings between 2014 and 2018, with particular focus on image composition, contextualized through a discussion on emerging discourses surrounding the visual imagery of IS beheadings.

Andreas Rauscher (University of Siegen): Playing Propaganda and the Ludic Dialectics of Participatory Culture

Modifications and variations of popular video games provide an important building block to the interactive processes of media convergence that scholar Henry Jenkins characterized as a form of “participatory culture” (Jenkins 2006). But in contrast to the creative re-configuration of artifacts from popular culture associated with the democratic structures and cultural practices of grass-roots fan activities the appropriation of popular video games for ideological purposes indicates a dialectical turning point to the idea of emancipatory playfulness.
Instead of enabling emergent forms of play and their open renegotiation of game rules, that have been discussed in relation to game modifications and editor games (cf. Abend, Beil 2014), the retooling of popular video games for propagandistic purposes aims for the reduction of playful ambiguity in favor of a distinct agenda. In order to achieve the one-sided effect of ideological manipulation the polyvalent nature of simulation essential to video games has to be restricted to rather trivial forms of gameplay. This reduction seems to be counter-intuitive to the promise of agency that video games offer to the player in contrast to film and other non-interactive media. In regard to this contradiction at the core of ludic propaganda the game mods employed by Islamist groups provide a compelling example for visual culture research on the rhetoric of totalitarianism as well as a significant theoretical problem in the field of game studies. Building on the concept of procedural rhetoric defined by media scholar Ian Bogost (cf. Bogost 2008) this paper will discuss critical perspectives from game studies in relation to recent developments in media studies.

14:45 – 16:15    Panel 3 Artivism

Panel Abstract

Artivism describes the point of intersection between arts and activism – how different forms of art can embrace political intention as well as how political action can be artistic. The MENA region has seen a particular rise in artistic practices utilised in political contexts by its citizens since the so-called Arab Awakening. Additionally, the rise of ISIS brought a lot of artists to use their platform to counter the extremists’ narratives.
Using the wide reach of the world wide web to amplify their voices, artivists engage in social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Through music, photography, street art, poetry slams, and more they point out injustices and human rights violations in their communities and gain support from all around the world.
This panel calls for practitioners and academics who are interested in artivism in the Arab world and the Diaspora to discuss approaches, experiences, theories as well as current discourses and phenomena in the field.

Chair: Larissa Fuhrmann (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)


Iyad El-Baghdadi (Civita / Oslo): The Fundamental Narratives Underlying ISIS’s Messaging

In its propaganda, ISIS regularly instrumentalizes Islamic history and culture, including poetry and literature. This often presents challenges to Western researchers, who may not be as attuned to the appeal or cultural significance. This also frequently makes ISIS’s messaging appear opaque and culturally alien, and is particularly problematic to those tasked with assessing or creating counter-messaging. However, it is possible to spot more fundamental narratives that underlie ISIS’s propaganda, making its similarity to other extremist movements far easier to spot. This can help in understanding its appeal, and in designing counter-narratives.

Monika Salzbrunn (Université de Lausanne): Artivism, Politics and Islam – A Theoretical Approach to Artistic Strategies

What are the interrelations between art and activism, activism in art and the use of art in activism? To what extent have the arts been political until today and how does political activism resort to art (poetry, performance, painting, photography, video etc.)? Starting from the Situationists’ movement and following Rancière’s “Politiques du sensible”, we will reflect on the link between the aesthetic and the political. After a conceptual overview about artivism and political engagement as a research topic and related methodological challenges, we will provide concrete examples for artistic strategies, namely how artivists engage in various media in order to reverse stigmata and collective representations. We will give insights from three ongoing research projects, “Undocumented Mobility (Tunisia-Switzerland) and Digital-Cultural Resources after the ‘Arab Spring’”, “(In)visible Islam in the City – Material and Immaterial Expressions of Muslim Practices in Urban Spaces” (both funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation) and the ERC project “ARTIVISM. Art and Activism. Creativity and Performance as Subversive Forms of Political Expression in Super-Diverse Cities”.

Khalid Wad Albaih (ICORN, Copenhagen): The ambiguity of political cartoons on militant Islamic groups, the online interaction with supporters of groups such as DAESH

In my contribution to the conference, I would like to reflect from a personal perspective on the rise of ISIS and its supporters. Being a Muslim immigrant from Sudan who went to ‘wahabi schools’ in the Middle East, I studied most of the political concepts and religious interpretations that seem to be so intriguing to young people that they join ISIS. I decided to engage in the public discourse on ISIS through my art in particular my cartoons. Under the umbrella of ‘Khartoon’ I discuss a variety of topics connected to global politics and have published a series of cartoons talking about ISIS, their motivation, views, actions and relations to other political actors. I would like to present these and discuss them with the audience.

16:30 – 17:00    Closing Remarks