City Research Online

A Cultural Criminology of ‘New’ Jihad: Insights from Propaganda Magazines

Myhre Sunde, H., Ilan, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4080-2898 & Sandberg, S. (2020). A Cultural Criminology of ‘New’ Jihad: Insights from Propaganda Magazines. Crime, Media, Culture: an international journal, 17(2), pp. 271-287. doi: 10.1177/1741659020915509


The backgrounds and modus operandi of more recent jihadi terrorists tend to share factors and characteristics more typically associated with non-political violence such as mass- killings and gang violence. Their attacks, moreover, seem to have been precipitated not by the direct instructions of a formal hierarchy but by the encouragement of propaganda produced and disseminated by networked, media-savvy terrorist groups. It is necessary to explain how these ‘recruitment’ efforts work. Cultural criminology with its understanding of the relationship between mediated meaning and individual experience, can provide such an analysis. The paper presents a qualitative document analysis of 32 propaganda magazines produced by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. It demonstrates that they contain significantly more than religious rhetoric and military strategy. Rather, they are part of a process that crystalizes a jihadi subculture that appeals to disaffected and/or marginalized, excitement- seeking youths. The magazines cultivate violence by constructing a militarized style that celebrates outlaw status, where violence is eroticized and aestheticized. They idealize the notion of a jihadi terrorist that is tough and willing to commit brutal violence. The lifestyle portrayed offers the possibility of heroism, excitement, belonging and imminent fame, themes often espoused by conventional, Western consumer culture. The magazines occasionally draw on street jargon, urban music, fashion, films and video games. The subcultural model of jihadi propaganda we explicate provides a novel way of understanding terrorist recruiting tactics and motivations that are not necessarily in opposition to contemporary conventional criminal and ‘mainstream’ cultures, but in resonance with them.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: jihadi terrorism, terrorist propaganda, cultural criminology, subculture, qualitative media analysis
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
J Political Science > JZ International relations
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Cultural Criminology of New Jihadion Accepted Version.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (343kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login