Deflating the iconoclash: shifting the focus from Islamic State’s iconoclasm to its realpolitik

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This article explores the tension between religious and political motivations in the strategy of Islamic State. It develops the Arendtian model of politics as a space of appearance through the work of Silverstone, Devji and Cavarero to consider how Islamic State exhibits itself in this space using religious modalities. This space is conceptualized as a global media ecology. Whilst no political actor can control how it is recognized within that ecology, religious and even ethical modalities grant Islamic State a compelling attention-grabbing and persuasive capacity. However, greater exposure of its pragmatic, realpolitik behavior might deflate that identity. The second half of the article sets out several examples of such behavior. The article concludes by suggesting that icons are something all societies live with but the news media that constitute the global space of appearance remain transfixed by iconic acts or icon-smashing. This leaves publics-cum-audiences adrift, uncertain and anxious about the nature, actions and threat of Islamic State.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jan 2018


  • Icons
  • Islamic State
  • terrorism
  • media
  • visual politics

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