Helen Murphey

Project Title: Representing and Contesting Digital Jihadi Religiosity

The recent emergence of Salafi-jihadi viral social media largely came as a surprise to security and political experts; previous use of the internet had been considered predominantly instrumental and geared towards recruitment or coordination. The professionalised magazines and videos publicly released by the so-called Islamic State (IS) thus surprised experts and public alike. Following this, theorists have increasingly noted the growing importance of digital media skills and aptitude for successful global networking among transnational Salafi-jihadi groups.

Yet the impact of the internet cannot be distilled to strategy or instrumentality alone; increasingly, the digital world has become a primary location for community. Its multimedia-friendly and multivocal features have impacted the structure of Salafi-jihadi ideological movements, intertwining modern communicative strategies with classical ideologies. My research will ethnographically examine the behaviour of Salafi-jihadis within a variety of contemporary digital contexts, with particular attention to how religiosity, tradition and identity are reimagined and reconstituted. More broadly, I will investigate how the boundaries of community are drawn and contested through interactive Web 2.0 structures which blur the line between production and consumption of content, as well as how mastery of viral social media communicative strategies can relocate and convey digital authority and influence.

Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Field: Politics and International Relations

University: University of St Andrews

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