Mediating Islamic State| Islamic State and Women: A Biopolitical Analysis

Mohammed Salih, Marwan Kraidy


Based on Islamic State (IS)’s own writings and images, this article seeks to understand the type of power wielded by IS. Focusing on IS’s views and treatment of women, we conduct a textual analysis of IS’s online English-language magazine Dabiq. Interpreting our findings through a theoretical framework combining the work of Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Achille Mbembe on biopolitics and necropolitics, we theorize IS’s gendered biopolitical power. IS is obsessed with microregulating all aspects of Sunni Muslim women’s lives, imposing a strict dress code and a regime of gender segregation and ensuring women’s subjugation to men in the private and public domains. However, for non-Muslim Yazidi women, IS’s sovereign power manifests itself in the subjection of captured Yazidi women to a “state of exception,” reducing their lives to its bare biological minimum. Our comparative analysis of IS’s treatment of Sunni and Yazidi women enables us to identify shifts and overlaps between biopolitical and necropolitical power.


Islamic State, IS, biopolitics, necropolitics, biopower, disciplinary power, sovereign power, Foucault, Agamben, Mbembe, Yazidi

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