(En)gendering the dead terrorist: (De)constructing masculinity in terrorist media obituaries

Lee Jarvis, Andrew Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article contributes to contemporary scholarship on gender, violence, and global politics by exploring how the figure of the terrorist is produced within mainstream media obituaries. It offers three arguments. First, the genre overwhelmingly positions the terrorist as a masculine figure. This positioning takes place, we demonstrate, in a variety of ways including through constructions of the character, family life, and ‘career’ of those designated terrorist. Second, this masculinised figure is, importantly, a heterogenous one that negotiates ‘fighter’, ‘strategist’ and ‘leader’ archetypes. These templates can co-exist, we argue, because of their common structural differentiation to the feminine: a position inhabited by supporting characters including wives and other male terrorists. The article’s third argument is that the stability of this dominant figuration of the terrorist is also disrupted in obituaries via juxtaposition to more masculine figures, and through feminisation of the deceased through constructions of cowardice, passivity, and vanity. In making these arguments, the article offers the first analysis of the masculinised storying of terrorism and terrorists in this almost entirely neglected genre. In so doing, it sheds new light on the obituary as an important mnemonic site for the everyday reproduction and problematisation of global politics.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbersqad085
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2023


  • Masculinity
  • Gender
  • Memory
  • Terrorism
  • obituary

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