Rethinking the martyr within the global jihadi movement

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McDonald, Kevin (2009) Rethinking the martyr within the global jihadi movement. In: Future of Sociology. Lockie, Stewart, Bissell, David, Greig, Alastair, Marsh, David, Saha, Larry, Hynes, Maria, Sikora, Joanna and Woodman, Dan, eds. The Australian Sociological Association, Canberra, pp. 1-13.


Analyses of contemporary terrorism are moving from state-centric to movementcentric models, which tend to reproduce older tensions within the sociology of social movements, where on the one hand instrumental theories understand violence as a tool, while on the other cultural or psychological analyses approach violence as a pathology of modernity, religion, ‘identity’ or personality. This paper considers video and internet communications of jihadis in the United Kingdom, noting the importance of global cultural forms such as conspiracy theory, technological mediations such as the Internet, the importance of horror and the extreme, the inexperiencable and the unimaginable that together may constitute a new ‘grammar of violence’. Rather than analyse such violence in terms of collective identity or imagined community, the paper argues that it is better understood in terms of the sublime, pointing to the importance of somatic modes of experience and to broader signigficance of death within jihadi culture. This reaffirmes recent analyses insisting upon the importance of the extraordinary to contemporary social life, while at the same time underlining the urgent challenge facing sociology to construct conceptual tools to explore such developments.

Item type Book Section
Official URL
ISBN 9780646525013
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1606 Political Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 2002 Cultural Studies
Keywords violence, terror, jihad, globalization, sociology of experience
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