Mediating Islamic State| Islamic State War Documentaries

Nathaniel Greenberg


Amid the bloodshed of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Al-Qaeda affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) introduced into their repertoire a new tool of war: the handheld camera. Tracing the evolution of the ghazwa, or military expedition aesthetic, in ISI and later ISIS filmmaking, this article explores the way in which the organization’s primary organ of communication, Al-Furqan Media Foundation, expanded from its origins as a documentary film unit to become one of the world’s most potent vehicles of performative violence. Drawing on a comparative frame of reference with other active media units within the greater sphere of Al-Qaeda communications, including the Al-Andalus Establishment for Media Production of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Furqan Media in the Egyptian Sinai, this article examines the manner in which aesthetic prerogatives, intertwined with religious mythology, served to transcend and unite disparate political factions around a common “narrative identity,” one that preceded and will outlast the reign of the Islamic State caliphate.


Al-Qaeda, Al-Furqan AQIM, aesthetics documentaries, Islamic State, jihad

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