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Durham e-Theses
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Author-imposed embargo until 13 July 2023.


This thesis is on Islamic State’s (IS) “discursive power” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Guided by the general investigation of the role of language in relation to key contemporary issues shaping the modern MENA region, it investigates the effects of IS’ use of language in shaping the perception of the MENA populations about the conflict dynamics in Iraq and Syria. Jordan and Tunisia provide the two case studies for the analysis of IS’ discursive power. Representing IS’ communication campaign as a sender-message-receiver continuum, this doctoral research aims to give primary importance to the message and its audience. Doing so, it highlights three distinct but related dynamics: the “meaning-making process” in IS’ discourse, the latter’s promotion as a general “truth”, and the “shaping process” that consists in using this “truth” to influence its audience’s representation of its environment.
This thesis situates the research in the body of work relating to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) that provides deep insights into the concept of discourse and offers several advantages to study IS as a social movement through a discourse-sensitive and linguistic approach. Frame Theory (FT) is used as the general framework for the understanding of the formation and reception of IS’ discourse about the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. This work specifically builts upon the concept of resonance, that is, the degree to which a message succeeds in generating responsiveness in the targeted group or the audience at large. Finally, Corpus Linguistic Techniques are the preferred analytical tools to code the datasets, highlight linguistics patterns and specificities, and analyse conflict frames.
The analysis and comparison of the conflict frames present in IS’ discourse on the one side, and in the discourse of the Tunisian and Jordanian populations surveyed in the other side reveal that, while IS’ rhetoric on the causes of the perceived crisis and on its solution seem to resonate in MENA populations, the social practices this solution entails failed to convince. In that sense, if IS succeeded to echo the grievances and resentment of its audience, the group was unable to attract generalised support for its Caliphate and radical socio-political change for the MENA region. Nonetheless, this apparent rejection of IS’ project must be nuanced at the regional and state levels. After years of war in Iraq and Syria, the conditions that initially gave rise to IS remain. So do the dynamics that nurtured the popular grievances against perceived illegitimate rulers.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Islamic State, Discourse, MENA, Jordan, Tunisia, frames
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Jul 2020 14:02

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