Grand narrative and the Islamic State: investigating propaganda, education and narrative in Dabiq

Davis, Gareth Michael (2023) Grand narrative and the Islamic State: investigating propaganda, education and narrative in Dabiq. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The emergence of the Islamic State (IS) Caliphate in 2014 in Iraq and Syria brought with it a profound challenge to Western visions of the political order of the Middle East. The group’s system of belief and understanding of religious knowledge confronted long-held and Western -backed grand narratives emphasising the primacy of secularism and liberalism to social and political reality. This thesis is concerned with interrogating the dominant themes of the grand narrative of the Islamic State militant group, focussing on their online magazine propaganda series Dabiq. It analyses these texts using thematic coding analysis. Using the work of philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard, specifically his text The Postmodern Condition, this thesis applies the theory of grand narrative to understand the reasons why once-dominant Western grand narratives have collapsed. This has led to an incredulity toward universal or liberal grand narratives, resulting in a retreat that has allowed powerful anti-modern forces such as IS to take advantage and institute their own narrative and systems of knowledge. The thesis begins with an introduction that maps out its motivation, structure and goals. Chapter One conveys the substance of Lyotard’s work and the nature of the areas of enquiry. Chapter Two presents the issues of ideology and imaginaries (Western and Islamic) and the importance of education to grand narrative. Chapter Three illustrates the history and influence of Western and non-Western colonialism in shaping the state of grand narrative in the 19th and 20th centuries. Chapter Four outlines the West’s relationship to the Enlightenment and how this shaped Western attitudes to grand narratives of knowledge and education, while also examining the challenge offered to this by Islamic educational forces. Chapter Five explicates this comparison further between Western and Islamic forms of learning, while Chapter Six discusses methodology and thematic coding, and Chapter Seven discusses the analysis of the themes of Dabiq. This thesis concludes that the three dominant themes of the grand narratives found in Dabiq are: 1) the importance of the Caliphate to unleashing individual and collective transformation; 2) jihadist activism and 3) the prophetic methodology as the system of knowledge within the Caliphate. By analysing these themes we can understand how the grand narratives of IS are not truly educational but propagandistic in nature. This thesis argues that a genuinely liberal grand narrative offers the truest challenge to that of IS, but that this requires a deep and authentic commitment to the values of liberalism that Western political forces have often failed to realise.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Conroy, Professor James and McMahon, Professor Margery
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83923
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2023 11:30
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2023 11:32
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83923

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