The Islamic State: Violence and Ideology in a Post-colonial Revolutionary Regime

The Islamic State: Violence and Ideology in a Post-colonial Revolutionary Regime Abstract This paper seeks to counter popular and academic discourse that emphasizes the uniqueness or unprecedented nature of the Islamic State. Many of these claims highlight the violence perpetrated by ISIS as evidence of its unique ideology. This essay draws from the work of Foucault and Fanon, as well as from Richard Sakwa’s thinking on the changing nature of the concept of revolution, in order to counter these popular narratives. The paper begins by reading ISIS’s public executions through the lens of Foucault’s discussion of the spectacle of violence in Discipline and Punish. What is often described as unique, irrational, unprecedented violence is reread as advancing particular rational goals. Yet, rather than dismiss ISIS’s ideology altogether, the paper argues that ISIS is best understood as exhibiting qualities of an anticolonial revolutionary regime. Through violent actions, it forges new collective identities grounded in a national culture rooted in an effort to find authenticity in precolonial Sunni Islam. Much of the scholarly work on the Islamic State1 has focused on explaining its rise, identifying how it might be confronted or defeated, and understanding its ideology and political practices.2 At times, this scholarly literature has confronted a tendency in media coverage and political rhetoric to exaggerate the threat that ISIS poses to the United States (e.g., Friis 2015). Yet, running through some of this literature, as well as more popular rhetoric, is a view of the Islamic State as a unique force both in the regional politics of the Middle East and in the broader scope of Islamist radicalism (e.g., Wood 2015). Indeed, there are many aspects to ISIS's politics, ideology, and tactics that make it different from prior Islamist organizations. Unlike other militarized Islamist organizations, ISIS has advanced forms of violence, governance, and sectarianism that have actively sought to remake borders (and by extension the state system) throughout the entire Middle East and beyond (through affiliated individuals and groups from Nigeria to Bangladesh). This article offers an interpretive framework that seeks to make sense of ISIS's seemingly unique qualities in ways that help it appear less new and unprecedented. Drawing on the work of Foucault and Fanon, I provide exegesis and analysis of Islamist texts critical to ISIS's self-definition, ISIS videos, and particular practices, in order to offer a framework for interpreting the violent acts and practices that ISIS has engaged in; its processes of consolidating authority and imposing rule; and the nature of its ideology, which underpins both its violence and state-making practices. Alessandrini (2014) offers a compelling case for the “productive possibilities” for writing a history of the present that can result from “thinking Fanon and Foucault together.”3 For Alessandrini, what binds Foucault and Fanon is how their work points to critical ways for reading and analyzing current political practices—to unpack their meaning in ways that seek to understand, rather than to judge, the subjects they interrogate. Here, insights from Foucault's analysis of discipline and punishment and Fanon's analysis of colonialism and anticolonialism are combined to make ISIS's violence more intelligible. Drawing insights from both Foucault and Fanon allows for a better understanding of ISIS than would an analysis that drew primarily from one or the other. Foucault offers useful lenses for understanding both the Islamic State's violence and its governing practices, while Fanon helps locate the Islamic State as the latest in a line of anticolonial Islamist insurgencies. Just as Friis (2015) examined beheading videos and the visibility of the war against ISIS to problematize arguments that ISIS's violence is “beyond anything we have seen,” this paper locates the Islamic State within the broader, century-long struggle of Islamists to respond to the exigencies of the post-Ottoman Middle East (Strindberg and Warn 2011). Highlighting the uniqueness of the Islamic State is problematic on two fronts. First, we ought to consider what implications arise from stressing ISIS as a unique political force. At the most basic level, stressing uniqueness suggests that neither existing social science frameworks nor, by extension, existing strategies to contain, resist, and defeat the Islamic State are available; that both have to be invented de novo. Second, given the need to make sense of this seemingly unique and innovative force in world politics, there is a troubling tendency to root such de novo understandings in the importance of ISIS's ideology. Thus, in the conclusion of his influential article, Wood (2015) writes of the ideological appeal of the Islamic State: That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophesy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Followers of the Islamic State, this line of reasoning goes, display what Weber has called value-related rationality more than goal-oriented (or more strategic) rationality. Moreover, such reasoning implies that ISIS's is a value-related rationality steeped in a messianic, end-of-days version of Sunni Islam that manifests itself without parallel in Middle East history. By establishing a new caliphate, the Islamic State seeks to hasten the final confrontation that will restore Islamic greatness. Descriptions of the Islamic State's uniqueness and of its ideological purity, therefore, contribute both to a tendency to exaggerate the importance of the Islamic State, overstating its attraction, reach, and influence, and to the reification of Orientalist beliefs, which continue to justify Western military intervention.4 The Islamic State might not be as unique as some suggest; the Islamic State emerged out of a century of Sunni Islamist political mobilization. It reflects, therefore, learning and innovation from lessons drawn across these experiences. Three aspects of the Islamic State that are different from prior versions of Sunni jihadism and, therefore, worth pointing out and keeping in mind throughout this analysis include: the innovative way in which ISIS has recorded, disseminated, and broadcast its violence; a concerted focus on sectarian, especially anti-Shiite violence; and rather than a patient, teleological view of history, an emphasis on the immediate creation of a new caliphate. ISIS is innovative in its use of high quality video productions designed to attract viewers; these video depictions of violent operations are meant to entertain as much as to instill fear, depending on the viewing audience. It is this symbolic depiction of violence and the consequent use of social media to broadcast violent successes, rather than the violence itself, that has separated ISIS from prior militant Islamist organizations.5 Not the first to display violence through choreographed videos posted on social media platforms, ISIS has nonetheless perfected this practice. A second innovation of ISIS is its profound sectarianism, developed through a broad application of Takfiri doctrine, whereby ISIS leaders define other Muslims (particular Shiites) as apostates and, therefore, justifiably subjects for violent confrontation. Such a practice, which has been crucial to ISIS, emerged, in part, out of the Sunni organizations associated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq during the decade following the 2003 US invasion. In addition, ISIS has more systematically targeted other non-Muslim religious communities for forced conversion or extermination than prior Islamist organizations. The targeting of Christians and Yazidis in northern Iraq are particularly notable examples. Finally, ISIS offers an important innovation in the world of Salafist jihadism. Al Qaeda's teleological view of history drove the organization's clandestine behavior, where organizational secrecy, with punctuated and dramatic displays of violence, were the order of the day, secure in the knowledge that history would eventually lead to the fall of the West and the return of Islamic greatness. ISIS appears less content to wait for history to play itself out but is, instead, driven by the belief that more open and widespread action can bring about the return of Islamic greatness in the more immediate future. This split is a central point of contention between the Islamic State and al Qaeda globally and within the Middle East. In developing a framework for understanding ISIS, this paper proceeds in three linked parts. First, drawing on the understanding of power and control developed by Foucault, I explore both the logic and potential limits of the Islamic State's reliance on the spectacle of violence. My focus here is on the way in which the Islamic State uses violence as punishment, which constitutes its most dramatic forms of violence but by no means the entirety of its violent behavior. Here, I draw on a number of sources that highlight the essential rationality of Islamic State violence, as well as on textual exegesis of The Management of Savagery, a 2003/4 jihadist text that has prominently informed ISIS's thinking and action. Second, I explore how the use of violence in the Islamic State's efforts to consolidate authority, remake society, and impose its strategy of survival reflects its distinct form of what Foucault calls governmentality. I argue that one reason the Islamic State appears new and unprecedented has to do with the way that ISIS reflects the revolutionary logic of twentieth century emancipatory revolutionary regimes, a form of biopolitical control that receded with the end of the Cold War. Shades of ISIS's form of rule, in other words, might be seen in the Khmer Rouge, in Stalinist Russia, and even in the early years of the post-1979 Islamic Republic of Iran. Finally, I examine how both the Islamic State's ideology and its violence reflect Frantz Fanon's insights about the logic of anticolonial resistance and help locate the Islamic State as a would-be anticolonial revolutionary regime. Taken together, the Islamic State's deployment of savage violence is both ideologically informed and strategically oriented; its state-making behavior seems out of place in the postrevolutionary, neoliberal moment but has its analogues in prior revolutionary regimes and reflects the enduring logic of anticolonialism outlined by Fanon, replete with the impossible search for an authentic national identity in a mythically pure past. An accurate understanding of the Islamic State remains important, even though recent military defeats have diminished its territorial control and undermined its effort to build a form of government premised on the calculated use of violence combined with practices that inculcated its vision for Islamic life. The military defeat of the Islamic State has done little to change the broader conditions that enabled the rise of its version of an anticolonial Islamist revolutionary regime within the Middle East, and the continued allegiance to the ISIS model in Africa and Central Asia hint that it may be premature to celebrate the demise of the Islamic State model entirely. Understanding the Islamic State may help focus future analyses on innovations in Islamist radicalism that emerge both within the Middle East and, possibly, from the scores of Islamic State militants who have returned to their home countries. Viral Executions and Beheadings: The Islamic State's Spectacle of Violence Many popular accounts point to ISIS's extreme brutality as distinguishing it from other radical forces of Islamist militarism. The Islamic State’s beheadings, mass executions, crucifixions, and sexual enslavement, the argument goes, place it in a brutal category all of its own. For instance, in introducing American audiences to ISIS, PBS Frontline stressed to viewers that even al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Jabaat al Nusra, found ISIS's violence too much and, thereby, resisted, rather than swore allegiance to the rising Islamic State (Frontline 2014). Indeed, from mass killings to mass sexual enslavement, ISIS's extreme violence is what defines it to most Western audiences. Yet, the violence of ISIS is neither new nor merely psychotic. It has its roots in the insurgency and resistance to the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003; it reflects the violence used by regimes from Saddam Hussein's Iraq (Weiss and Hassan 2015, 23) to Hafez and Bashar al-Assad's Syria (Weiss and Hassan 2015, 134–35); and its logic was clearly articulated by Jihadi-Salafist ideologists in the decade prior to the declaration of an Islamic caliphate.6 Much of the scholarship on the Islamic State contends that Abu Bakr Naji's jihadist text The Management of Savagery greatly influenced Abu Musab al Zarqawi and, therefore, provides the historical justifications for the Islamic State's violence (e.g., Stern and Berger 2015, 23; Weiss and Hassan 2015, 40–41; and Atwan 2015). This text is worth considering insofar as it offers a rational explanation for savage violence and complicates arguments that advance cultural or religious explanations for ISIS's violence. Naji (2003, 8–10) begins his account by asserting that direct confrontation with America “removes the aura of invincibility” and will “spread confidence in the souls of Muslims.” For Naji, forcing the United States to attack the Islamic world directly, rather than hiding behind proxy states, will undermine American propaganda and gain supporters (Naji 2003, 10, 18). The initial period of conflict, which Naji refers to as one of vexation and exhaustion, is designed to sap the enemy of strength and, through dazzling victories, attract recruits (Naji 2003, 16). The region of savagery, then, must be strategically selected based on an evaluation of the enemy's weaknesses. Naji's strategy is based on a principle of escalating conflict, where movement from small to large operations creates an image of increasing power (Naji 2003, 29). Waves of operations, unlike al Qaeda's concentration on a few dramatic and isolated attacks, are designed to “send a message to the enemy that waves of fear and paying the price for its actions will never end” (Naji 2003, 29). Savage violence, thus, creates a demonstration effect that multiplies the global impact of every operation (Naji 2003, 19, 30). Consequently, after the stage of “vexation and exhaustion” comes the “paying the price stage.” Successful violence extends conflict to the largest possible area, attacks the luxury and economic interests of the enemy, and engages in unexpected actions that emphasize the enemy's paying the price for its current practices (Naji 2003, 83–84). As states fail and savagery takes hold, in come Islamic groups to administer savage regions, to restore order and justice (Naji 2003, 23). Naji acknowledges that his call for jihad is, essentially, a call for crude violence. “One who previously engaged in Jihad,” he writes, “knows that it is naught but violence, crudeness, terrorism, frightening (others), and massacring” (Naji 2003, 31). Yet, even through this religious lens, Naji's doctrine is not about the religious or ideological justification for violence but the strategic imperative for it. In the end, Naji's text advocates a strategic framework that is the mirror image of the US strategy of shock and awe, first articulated in a 1996 report and later implemented in the first wave of bomb attacks on Iraq in March 2003. “It behooves us,” he concludes, “to make them think one thousand times before attacking us” (Naji 2003, 31). This rationality for terrorism and savage violence has served as a guide for ISIS's actions, which promotes its spectacular violence in order to reinforce an image of power and invincibility. Islamic State violence has taken a number of forms, including military-style assaults on cities and Syrian and Iraqi military positions, guerilla-style urban fighting, and the violence associated with punishing opponents, enemies, and those who don't conform to its mandates. Here, my primary focus is unpacking these latter forms of punishment, which, through the dissemination of execution videos, have been among the most publicized elements of ISIS's violent activity.7 Foucault's insights on discipline and punishment provide one useful starting point for analyzing and interpreting Islamic State violence. In his study of the birth of modern forms of control, Discipline and Punish, Foucault states that his text is grounded by four general rules, three of which seem critical if we are to understand this aspect of the Islamic State's use of violence. Foremost, Foucault (1977, 23) suggests we not focus entirely on punishment as repressive; rather, we need to explore the “positive effects” of punishment. That is, we ought to focus as much on how punishment is designed to produce particular behaviors as it is designed to deter them. Consequently, a second rule of relevance is the need to “regard punishment as a political tactic” (Foucault 1977, 23). No matter how much we'd like to focus on ISIS's brutality as evil and vile, in other words, we must focus on how it is designed to advance particular political purposes. Finally, Foucault states that, in exploring the nature of punishment, we emphasize how, through punishment, “the body itself is invested by power relations” (Foucault 1977, 24). Through punishment, bodies are acted upon, and these actions are designed to convey particular meanings, both to the individual being punished and, more broadly, as lessons for other bodies. How, in essence, should we interpret the corporeal dimensions of Islamic State brutality? In what ways does ISIS's brutality seek to shape the behavior both of its adherents and its adversaries? ISIS's brutal violence is interesting because it represents less the logic of modern forms of control chronicled by Foucault—those forms that rely increasingly on examination and observation, on Panopticism—and more on the logic of the spectacle. To illustrate the logic of the spectacle, Foucault (1977, 3–7) begins Discipline and Punish with the vivid retelling of the botched execution of Damiens in 1757. Accused of regicide, Damiens was to be publicly drawn and quartered after having flesh torn from his body and molten lead poured upon those spots where his flesh had been removed. As Foucault retells this narrative, the horses are too tired to complete their critical task, and after several failed attempts, the addition of two horses, and a series of cuts to help the task along, the execution was finally completed. The horrified images of my students’ faces as I read these passages aloud in class confirm Foucault's suspicion that we often mistakenly interpret this incident and what it signals for our different forms of execution and punishment today. A change in our moral sentiments, the logic goes, has allowed us to see this barbarous violence as cruel and unusual; a modern society requires cleaner, less cruel punishments (Foucault 1977, 7–11). This, of course, misses the logic of the spectacle as a form of punishment. “The public execution,” Foucault (1977, 47) writes, “is to be understood not only as a judicial, but also as a political ritual. It belongs, even in minor cases, to the ceremonies by which power is manifested.” The public execution is about restoring, in the eyes of those who witness the punishment of the body of the condemned, the awesome power of the state (Foucault 1977, 48–49). The public execution supports the state's claims to be the chief rule-maker; it demands obedience to the state's wishes; and it demonstrates the capacity of the state to root out and exact punishment upon those who disobey the rules. Moreover, Foucault (1977, 57) argues that, “In the ceremonies of the public execution, the main character was the people, whose real and immediate presence was required for the performance.” For Foucault, seeing the execution was designed to arouse feelings of terror, direct anger at the accused, and reinforce the power of political authority (Foucault 1977, 58). Foucault points out that, to be effective, the execution requires the presence of a public to observe the actions and internalize their meaning. While ISIS certainly carries out public punishments of enemy combatants, criminals, or anyone whose lifestyle or beliefs do not comport with the evolving ideology of the Islamic State, I'm interested here in their use of video to record their violence for a wider audience. Indeed, through the use of highly produced and choreographed videos, ISIS offers the spectacle of its violence to an audience that need not be in direct proximity of the violence itself. Stern and Berger (2015, 3) call these videos “violence porn with a mission to intimidate and enrage.” “ISIS is using beheadings,” they write, “as a form of marketing, manipulation, and recruitment, determined to bring the public display of savagery into our lives, trying to instill in us a state of terror.” This is not the first time Islamist militants have sought to multiply the effect of violence through videos disseminated both to news organizations and through internet platforms. It is, though, perhaps the most highly refined use of mass media propaganda. ISIS's videos don't simply record spectacular violence, they craft a story for the viewing public that helps convey to the viewer just how to interpret the violence. It is instructive to unpack one example of the Islamic State's spectacular executions in order to illustrate the spectacle of violence in practice. In early February 2015, ISIS released a video that culminated in the execution of a Jordanian air force pilot, Muath al-Kassasbeh, who had been captured after his plane had crashed during anti-ISIS operations in late December 2014. Most news agencies provided small excerpts from the video, focusing on the moments just before al-Kassasbeh, detained in an iron cage, was burned alive. The full ISIS video, however, was a twenty-three-minute production that ultimately made clear that the manner of execution was designed to mimic the deaths of those caught in anti-ISIS airstrikes. The video begins with interview footage of Jordanian King Abdullah, designed to paint a picture of the monarchy as working hand-in-hand with the United States in military missions throughout the Islamic world. Multiple cuts of US/Jordanian military cooperation are featured throughout the opening three minutes. The explicit argument here is that Jordan, in siding with American military interests, has demonstrated its anti-Islamic nature, thus legitimizing violent retribution. The video then cuts to al-Kassasbeh seated at a table, offering a detailed description of the sortie that preceded his capture. The text of this interview had been published in ISIS's magazine, Dabiq. Dressed in an orange jump suit, which likely is designed to recall the prisoner clothing of American detainees, he presents what amounts to a confession. Set off as an eerie effigy against a black screen with pop-up images of text, as well as schematics of the Jordanian air force base from which he took off and of the F-16 that he was flying, al-Kassasbah describes a joint mission involving planes from the UAE, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. He even describes the laser-guided munitions the planes carried. Striking in his discussion of these operations is the fact that all of the Middle Eastern and North African countries participating in anti-ISIS military operations are using US-built military aircraft. The argument that these regimes advance Western colonial interests couldn't be clearer. The video then presents several minutes of airstrike videos, intermingled with images of dead and wounded people (many young children) burned as a result of airstrikes. The film cuts between al-Kassasbah walking to his execution and images of bodies being pulled from buildings collapsed in airstrikes. As al-Kassasbah steps into the metal cage in which he is to die, the viewer is acutely aware that his execution is metaphorically designed to reflect the deaths of those trapped in buildings and burned alive by anti-ISIS air strikes. This spectacle has a thesis and a purpose; it is not the incomprehensible violence of a death cult. The video reveals much about how the Islamic State uses the spectacle of violence to advance its goals. Here, the public torture and execution explicitly seeks to “reveal the truth” of the crime for which execution is a justifiable punishment (Foucault 1977, 44). The spectacle of the execution is both an act of punishment and an act of truth production. In this instance, the truth that ISIS produces casts the West as colonial, crusader powers whose interests are supported by a series of regimes that continue to act in un-Islamic ways. Their coordinated violence underpins the just response of ISIS. Moreover, the execution itself serves to restore justice and, in so doing, restore the image of ISIS's power. Al-Kassasbah's execution is, in Foucault's (1977, 49) language, “an emphatic affirmation of power and of [ISIS's] superiority.” The spectacle of violence embodied by such public executions is not simply designed to punish behavior but to produce desired behavior in the public observers of the violence. Indeed, as Benjamin (1978) writes, violence has two primary functions: it may be either law-making, or law-preserving. Though these two functions are not entirely free of tension, what binds them is the way in which violence is designed to enact or produce desired outcomes, to prescribe and enforce rules of behavior. Insofar as technology has expanded the publicness of the execution, there are two key differences in who constitutes the public who witnesses ISIS's executions: one public is constituted by external and internal adversaries; the other public is constituted by external and internal potential supporters of the Islamic State. Thus, the affirmation of power represented by the execution serves different purposes depending on which part of the public the viewer comes from. That part of the public representing potential subjects of the Islamic State is being asked to join ISIS, to support the fledgling Islamic State, to emigrate, to be willing to fight on its behalf. Violent execution videos produce in this public faith in the status and power of the Islamic State. The other part of the public present as viewers of the execution represent internal and external threats to the Islamic State and is being told that resistance is futile; submission to the Islamic State's authority is the only choice. Moreover, ISIS's execution videos, especially after the execution of journalist James Foley in August 2014, have contributed to Western fears of the threat ISIS poses. Thus, as we bear witness to the spectacle of Islamic State violence, we unwittingly give the Islamic State the power that it purported to already have. The spectacle of violence has in certain ways worked well for the Islamic State. It has secured the allegiance of various rebel groups and many, though not all, smaller Islamist militant groups fighting in Syria. It garnered close to twenty-five thousand foreign fighters who came from places as varied as Tunisia and Great Britain to join in building the new caliphate (Radio Free Europe 2015). Despite being more numerous and heavily armed than the one thousand ISIS attackers, the fleeing of some thirty thousand Iraqi troops from Mosul in mid-June 2014 demonstrates the effective capacity of ISIS's publicized executions to produce the behavior it desires (Sly and Ramadan 2014). Yet, despite its apparent successes, the drawback of the spectacle—the possibility of sympathy with the condemned—is something with which ISIS must contend. Indeed, the downfall of the Islamic State's precursors, AQI and ISI, owed much to the distaste for Zarqawi's extreme violence. ISIS appears to have learned some lessons from Zarqawi's overreach (al-Tamimi 2014, 8). While AQI and ISI targeted even the Sunni community in Iraq, ISIS has reserved its most extreme violence primarily for non-Sunni communities—for Shiites, Kurds, Yazidis, and Westerners, as well as for Sunni Muslims fighting on behalf of foreign regimes. Yet, as the Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence report on Islamic State defectors makes clear, ISIS's attacks against other Sunni Muslims in different factions resisting Assad, rather than a concerted focus on taking out Assad's regime, along with concerns over corruption and the generally harsh living conditions in the Islamic State, held the potential for creating further defections (Neumann 2015). Indeed, ISIS's brutal violence is, in part, to blame for the differences that split the Islamic State from al-Qaeda-backed groups (al-Tamimi 2014, 15). Moreover, while Islamic State propaganda may have initially frightened the Iraqi army, it hardened the resolve of Kurdish fighters, and a growing number of states entered into direct military confrontation with the Islamic State. Its total loss of territory seems, at the current moment, a brutal inevitability. The Islamic State as Revolutionary Regime In the previous section, I drew on insights from Foucault's analysis of different types of discipline and punishment to offer a reading of the Islamic State's reliance on the public execution as a spectacle of violence, which has been central to concerns about ISIS and the threat it poses to the West. This analysis challenged some popular understandings of ISIS brutality. In this section, I explore how ISIS represents something more than a terrorist organization or an insurgent group. It represents a would-be revolutionary regime (e.g., Walt 2015). Moving beyond its spectacular violence, this section focuses on ISIS's practices of government, and its efforts to inculcate particular ways of thinking, acting, and living in the populations over which it asserts control. While these practices and techniques may appear new and unprecedented, this section explores how they are, in fact, reminiscent of similar practices deployed by prior revolutionary regimes. In at least two ways, journalists and scholars have resisted understanding the Islamic State as a would-be revolutionary regime. For some, calling the Islamic State a revolutionary regime overstates the extent to which ISIS draws support from a mobilized and revolutionary population (Adib-Moghaddam 2015). Adib-Moghaddam, for example, criticizes Walt for suggesting that the Islamic State looks like other revolutionary movements in history, arguing instead that ISIS is “a psychopathic terror sect . . . a cartel of Fascist bandits, more comparable to the Ku Klux Klan . . . more Pablo Escobar than Robespierre.” The second, and not unrelated, reason ISIS is not often described as a would-be revolutionary regime results from the obsession with ISIS's violence. A focus on the Islamic State's brutality, which, as explored above, is often rooted in problematic arguments about the role of ISIS's ideology, tends to obscure ISIS's state- and society-making projects and even the role of violence in this process. From revenue generation to morality policing, to an elaborate governing structure, to the productive nature of its spectacular violence, the Islamic State has engaged in both institution building and the articulation of what Joel Migdal (1988) calls strategies of survival in order to remake the Middle East in its ideological image. Indeed, it is in the specific nature of ISIS's state and society making, and not necessarily in its spectacular violence, that we can see the importance of the Islamic State's ideology.8 Again, Naji's text, The Management of Savagery, offers a useful understanding of the principles that guide ISIS's governance. To manage savagery, Naji makes clear, is to create a state, and this involves: spreading internal security; providing food and medical treatment; securing the region of savagery from the invasions of enemies; establishing Sharia justice among the people . . . raising the level of belief and combat efficiency during the training of the youth . . . and so on. (Naji 2003, 11) Creating a state, in other words, is about borders, education, morality, law, intelligence, and revenue generation. In the area that it controlled militarily, the Islamic State sought to build legitimacy for its ideological vision through a protostate that involved a clear political hierarchy, a growing and locally rooted administrative bureaucracy, and multiple types of police forces, educational institutions, a media operation, and a court system that included “the use of hudud corporal punishments for an assortment of crimes such as theft and blasphemy” (al-Tamimi 2014, 16). Caris and Reynolds (2014, 14), focusing primarily on examining how ISIS governed its capital, Raqqa, divide ISIS's governance into two categories: “administration and Muslim services.” On the one hand, “Islamic outreach, Shari'a institutes, elementary education, law enforcement (both local and religious), courts, recruitment, and tribal relations,” they write, “fall under the administrative category.” On the other hand, “the provision of services, including humanitarian aid, bakeries, water, and electricity falls under what ISIS calls the ‘Department of Muslim Services’” (Caris and Reynolds 2014, 14). The dominant focus on ISIS's brutality and violence tends to obscure the actions and practices that fall under what Foucault describes as the art of government, or those rationalities, techniques, and practices deployed to constitute desired subjects. In fact, ISIS's violent practices, insofar as they seek to produce desired behaviors in citizens and subjects of the Islamic State, constitute an important element of how the Islamic State produces knowledge, truth, and control. As the previous section made clear, the spectacle of public executions can be understood as an exercise of ISIS's sovereign power. The calculated application of violence sought to produce in spectators’ correct action (e.g., obedience and respect), as well as a particular version of the truth. Yet, in addition to its violence, the Islamic State's more mundane practices, including education, control of prices, provision of public services, etc., were designed to constitute a population that reflected the desired attitudes, behaviors, and values that underpin the Islamic State's conservative interpretations of Sunni Islam. This “series of interventions and regulatory controls” constitutes what Foucault (1984, 262) terms the “bio-power” of the Islamic State. The Islamic State's ideology serves as the legitimating anchor for its governing practices. It is an ideology that promises emancipation to those who are willing to live out the Islamic State's way of life. Drawing from Richard Sakwa's analysis of the concept of revolution, I argue that the Islamic State exhibits a type of government most associated with a particular moment in revolutionary politics. Sakwa's reflection on the changing nature of revolution at the close of the twentieth century, and my contention that ISIS reflects a form of government more associated with prior revolutionary regimes, helps explain why some continue to see the Islamic State as new and unprecedented. Toward the end of the twentieth century, popular uprisings dramatically brought about the end of European communism, but rather than replacing it with new revolutionary regimes, underpinned by new revolutionary ideologies, or promises of emancipating people from all their worldly hardships, the protests that brought down communist regimes in Europe focused primarily on making the existing regimes go away. As Sakwa (2006, 459) notes, the overthrow of European communism represented “the repudiation at the social level of revolution as an emancipatory act.” For those who grew up under regimes promising emancipation through revolution, the reality of a life full of political repression and indoctrination and, at times, the ways in which repression proved the very hypocrisy of professed ideology, left few clamoring for a new totalizing revolutionary ideology. In short, the end of the twentieth century, Sakwa argues, gave rise to a new brand of antirevolutionary revolutionism. “By the end of the twentieth century,” he writes, “the notion of emancipatory revolutionism lost whatever popular resonance it once might have had in the countries that claimed to be building Communism as its basis” (Sakwa 2006, 460). In this section, I briefly explore how Sakwa's argument provides insight into the nature of Arab Spring protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, in interesting ways, the rise of the Islamic State out of the instability fostered by the Arab Spring represents the perhaps unexpected return of an emancipatory revolutionary regime. This revolutionary regime, which seems so out of place given the decisive and epochal transformation in revolutionary politics noted by Sakwa, explains why ISIS's rise is viewed as unique and innovative. Sakwa's analysis of the revolutions of 1989 was motivated by the goal of exploring what, if anything, distinguished the world-historical significance of these events, for unlike prior revolutionary moments, the events of 1989 didn't give rise to entirely new forms of economics or governance. The importance of these events, on the contrary, he argued, can be found in the ways in which they transformed the very understanding of revolution itself. To reach this conclusion, Sakwa offers an exploration of three prior and epochal understandings of revolution: revolution as naturalistic cyclicity, Enlightenment revolutionism, and emancipatory revolutionism, which is most relevant to this analysis of ISIS. For Sakwa, emancipatory understandings of revolution emerged in the nineteenth century with thinkers such as Marx who argued that revolutionary practice would do more than bring progress; it would bring about full human emancipation. According to this line of thinking, revolutions could solve all social problems (Sakwa 2006, 463). Indeed, it is this emancipatory version of revolutions which underpinned revolutionary ideologies and practices throughout most of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Emancipatory visions offered by leaders from Pol Pot to Vladimir Lenin, from Gamal Nasser to Ayatollah Khomeini, promised to remake the societies over which they presided. Inevitably, in order to achieve emancipation, revolutionary regimes found it necessary to deploy forms of government that imposed their visions on society through education, indoctrination, repression, and fear. Propaganda and robust internal security apparatuses provided the tools for achieving emancipation. In short, twentieth century revolutionary regimes involved relatively similar rationalities and practices of government. Yet, none of these revolutionary regimes was able to achieve its ideological vision, and for those individuals unlucky enough to voice discontent about life in such a regime, life became increasingly solitary, nasty, poor, brutish, and short. For Sakwa, such was the context in which the revolutions of 1989 took place. The revolutions of 1989 were predicated on the collective rejection of the logic of emancipatory revolutionism; they were, in sum, antirevolutions (Sakwa 2006, 468). The organizations, practices, and very goals of the antirevolutionary revolutions of 1989 marked, for Sakwa, a fourth epochal moment in the politics of revolutions. Gone was a politics predicated on identifying policies, ideologies, and practices that might achieve emancipation, and in its place was a new politics predicated on the value of political activism itself. In other words, the revolutionary and world historical element of the 1989 revolutions involved a commitment not to the outcomes of revolutionary change but to the very democratic aspects of the revolutionary practices themselves (Sakwa 2006, 472). As Sakwa seems to suspect, this shift in revolutionary thinking has affected revolutionary politics beyond Eastern Europe. In many ways, that the Arab Spring protests demanded that autocratic regimes go; that the people have a greater say; and not that some revolutionary ideology be imposed in order to achieve emancipation from worldly problems, continued to reflect the movement beyond and against the emancipatory revolutions of the previous century and half. All of this makes the rise of ISIS even more striking, for the Islamic State exhibits the hallmarks of an emancipatory revolutionary regime at a moment when revolutionary politics had seemingly rejected both the governing style and the ideological promise of such regimes. ISIS's focus on education, and in particular on how education serves as a means for imposing its religious ideology, makes clearer the Islamic State's emancipatory revolutionism. Caris and Reynolds identify several ways in which ISIS advances its religious ideology. Its initial outreach took the form of Da'wa events; these call those who live in areas the Islamic State comes to control to meetings that “educate participants about ISIS core beliefs” (Caris and Reynolds 2014, 15). In addition, the Islamic State constituted a religious police force (al-Hisba), which subsequently assured public cooperation with the core beliefs that had been elucidated in Da'wa meetings. From assuring women present themselves with proper modesty to assuring that stores do not unfairly raise prices on customers, the religious police help constitute the everyday social practices that reflect the Islamic State's version of Salafism. ISIS also replaced all previous schools with religious schools of its own making, part of a strategy targeted at recruiting children into its state-making efforts. The combined effort of this educational outreach is to instill in the public a faith that, in complying with the Islamic State, individuals will be liberated from those forces that have held them back. The message from the Islamic State's educational efforts is clear—following ISIS's rules provides residents of the Islamic state with security, stability, and financial resources. The contrast to the lawlessness and insecurity that had engulfed Syria in the aftermath of prodemocracy protests in 2011, or the anti-Sunni corruption and discrimination that defined life under Shiite rule in Iraq, couldn't be greater. “For the local community,” Weiss and Hassan (2015, 223–24) write, “the difference [of life inside in contrast to outside the Islamic State] was quickly felt: ISIS provided safety and security; its methods of justice were swift, and nobody was exempt from punishment, including its own fighters who deviated from the strict moral code it had laid down.” They conclude, “ISIS established itself as a viable law enforcer and won credit from two important societal segments: those who were disillusioned with the Syrian revolution and started to reminisce about safety and security under the regime, and those who were alienated by the [Free Syrian Army] and Islamic factions” (Weiss and Hassan 2015, 228). Stern and Berger (2015, 211) suggest that “like other ‘total organizations,’ ISIS aims to create a new form of man.” This new man is one who is capable of shaping history through successful and violent direct confrontation with the West and the local regimes that have advanced Western colonialism. It is a new man whose steadfast commitment to Sunni fundamentalism provides the shared identity upon which this resistance depends. It is a new man capable not only of surviving but of thriving in his emancipation from Western colonialism. It is a new man who can tear down borders imposed by Western powers and redraw them through the establishment of a new caliphate. This, of course, is an old theme running through Islamist politics. Sayyid Qutb (2009, 149), for example, described jihad as “a positive movement that aims to liberate man throughout the world.” The emancipatory promise offered by the Islamic State is captured in “This is the Promise of Allah (2014),” a document released upon ISIS's declaration of a new caliphate from “Allepo to Diyala.” Through the establishment of an Islamic State which embraces and enacts Sunni fundamentalist principles, and which successfully confronts both the West and the regimes currently in power throughout the Islamic world, ISIS offers the opportunity for honor and esteem, while its adversaries (cast as apostates and infidels) are “killed, imprisoned, or defeated.” “The time has come,” the founders of the Islamic State declare, “for those generations that were drowning in oceans of disgrace, being nursed on the milk of humiliation, and being ruled by the vilest of all people, after their long slumber in the darkness of neglect—the time has come for them to rise.” In calling Muslims to come and join the caliphate, the Islamic State offers a utopian vision of a society that offers not just progress but the removal of evil itself (2014). In short, ISIS promotes itself as an emancipatory revolutionary regime. Its practices of government, and its effort to inculcate particular ways of thinking, acting, and living in the populations over which it asserts control, are reminiscent of similar practices deployed by prior emancipatory revolutionary regimes. It is here, in seeking to understand the logic of the Islamic State as a revolutionary regime, and not necessarily in understanding the logic of its violence, that its particular ideological vision plays an important role. Thus, the specific, religiously based, anticolonial, ideological beliefs held by the Islamic State's leadership are what define it as a Sunni Islamist revolutionary regime. Nonetheless, as the final section of this paper will argue, even though specific aspects of its ideology are unique, by reaching into a mythical past to underpin an identity for today, the Islamic State has parallels in other anticolonial movements and continues a line of thinking articulated by Islamist ideologists throughout the twentieth century. The Dialectics of Violence: The Wretched of the Earth are Still Recreating Themselves To this point, I have drawn on Foucault's analysis of discipline and punishment as a lens both for understanding the spectacle of violence associated with ISIS's public executions, as well as for exploring forms of biopolitical control associated with its art of government (one that I suggest is best described as an example of an emancipatory revolutionary regime) within the territory it controlled. I turn here to the work of Frantz Fanon because it is Fanon's analysis of anticolonial struggles that offers the best way to understand the broader violence of ISIS, as well as make sense of its ideological vision within the particular historical moment. Strindberg and Warn (2011) offer a useful template for developing a Fanonian analysis of Islamist politics. Fanon's focus on resistance to European colonialism and, in particular, his analysis of the Cold War in shaping anticolonial struggles, suggests that the current context of Islamist politics is not quite the same as the politics of decolonization in Africa and Southeast Asia in the mid-twentieth century. Yet, there are important similarities that are worth considering, for they help us understand that ISIS is not something entirely new or unprecedented; that its violence reflects a dialectics of anticolonial violence that has shaped so much Middle Eastern and North African politics since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; and that its violence, like the anticolonial violence upon which Fanon focused, is constitutive of identity. It is fair to say that violence is, more broadly, important to many processes of identity formation. From Tilly's (1994) discussion of warfare and the rise of early European nationalisms, to Migdal's (1988) identification of war as useful to the formation of a strong Israeli identity, to Schmitt's (1996) arguments about the importance of existential enemies to politics and the constitution of friends, the relationship of violence to identity formation is not unique to the Islamic State. The argument advanced here is that the Islamic state's violence can be read through a Fanonian lens as part of a broader trajectory of anticolonial identity politics that has developed and shifted but has remained an important part of politics in the Middle East and North Africa since the end of the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, such a reading of ISIS may point to implications for the future of Islamist violence after the military defeat of the Islamic State as a territorial entity. For Fanon, the distinguishing feature of colonialism is a dialectical relationship between the settler and the native. The settler, through a series of ideological constructs, brings about the very identity of the native, and imbues the native with animalistic qualities that serve to justify the settlers’ violent rule. At a certain point, though, the native comes to recognize the settler's construction of him as false. Fanon suggests that the violence of anticolonialism resolves the dialectical relationship between the settler and the native with the creation of a new, shared identity—the rebel. For the native, anticolonial violence “binds [people] together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of a great organism of violence which has surged upward in reaction to the settler's violence in the beginning” (Fanon 1963, 93). In short, violent anticolonial struggle constitutes new political identities. Strindberg and Warn (2011, 56) refer to this peculiar relationship between violence and identity as the Fanonian impulse, which refers to “the psychological impact of insurgence and resistance on the native Self, and the translation of that impact into political currency, tactics, and strategy.” The Fanonian impulse differentiates anticolonial violence from other forms of violence, insofar as “armed resistance not only carries with it the promise of political liberation but constitutes in and of itself the means of psychological emancipation” (Strindberg and Warn 2011, 58). Strindberg and Warn (2011, 55) suggest that Islamist politics in the Middle East and North Africa “are at root anti-colonial liberation struggles.” Islamist politics, as such, represents a potent opposition to both larger political forces (i.e., the relationship between Western states and the Muslim nation [Strindberg and Warn 2011, 43]) and more local forces (i.e., the different interactions between specific populations and rulers within post-Ottoman states [Strindberg and Warn 2011, 44]). Moreover, they write, “The Manichean world created by the legacy of imperialism and colonialism has profound repercussions for all major Islamist movements, which have emerged as responses to the failed liberation struggles of the leftists and nationalists” (Strindberg and Warn 2011, 51). It is, therefore, impossible not to read the creation of identity within the Islamic State through such a lens. While not confronting the same settler colonialism about which Fanon was writing, in violent struggle against the West, and against the Syrian, Iraqi, (and other Sunni) regimes that it sees as merely doing the bidding of the West, ISIS fosters in its fighters a new identity—perhaps more a new version of the Islamic warrior rather than the rebel.9 The Islamic State, unlike the postcolonial bourgeoisie about which Fanon writes, does not generally seek to enter into the capitalist system, to inherit the previous regime's levers of economic and political power, even while its violence recalls the violence of both past regimes in the Middle East and the actions of external powers in the region.10 On the contrary, ISIS offers what appears to be a more thoroughgoing rejection of ancien régimes. In this sense, as the previous section argued, we might look beyond Fanon, to the literature on revolutionary regimes, in order to understand the nature of ISIS's revolutionary utopianism. Yet, I contend that Fanon's discussion of the demand for a national culture within anticolonial uprisings is relevant for an understanding of ISIS's version of an anticolonial Islamist ideology. For Fanon, the native intellectual seeks to rescue a national culture by going back in history to rehabilitate a civilizational identity that existed before colonialism and which was denied and belittled by colonialism. This effort to recover an authentic precolonial identity is an act of resistance, engaged in by those who “relentlessly determine to renew contact once more with the oldest and most pre-colonial springs of life of their people” (Fanon 1963, 210). What's interesting about this process is both the extent to which it is engaged in with zeal and the ways in which it is an impossible task. Indeed, rather than recovering an authentic past, this process involves the invention of a prior mythic authenticity. It is an invention, which, like other forms of imagining a community, seeks to bring about a collective identity, here, an imagined community specifically designed to resist and present an alternative to colonialism. The distinctive nature of the Islamic State's ideology worth considering here is described by Bunzel as a branch of Jihadi-Salafism. “Jihadi-Salafism,” Bunzel (2015, 7) writes, “is a distinctive ideological movement in Sunni Islam . . . The movement is predicated on an extremist and minoritarian reading of Islamic scripture that is also textually rigorous, deeply rooted in premodern theological tradition, and extensively elaborated by a recognized cadre of religious authorities.” The Islamic State, then, can trace its ideological lineage back to Sunni thinkers ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood's Hasan al-Banna to Saudi Wahhabism and Sayyid Qutb (Bunzel 2015, 7–9). Its central tenets involve a return to a precolonial, purified, conservative enactment of Islamic life that can respond to “Western imperialism and the associated decline of Islam in public life” (Bunzel 2015, 7). The effort to draw from a mythical past to inform a resurgent present identity is perhaps most strikingly evident in the Islamic State's concerted efforts to wipe away state borders because existing states are artificial colonial constructions that divide the ummah, or Islamic community. The declaration of the caliphate, therefore, specifically sought to undo the boarders that have shaped the state system since the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.11 According to Malise Ruthven (2014), the Sykes-Picot agreement features prominently in ISIS thinking because “it stands near the beginning of what many Arabs view as a sequence of Western betrayals spanning from the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in World War I to the establishment of Israel in 1948 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” In its public statements surrounding the declaration of the caliphate, and in symbolic acts of destruction that dismantled the physical infrastructure that once marked state borders between Iraq and Syria, Ruthven (2014) argues that ISIS “is nurtured by the myth of precolonial innocence.” For ISIS, any individual or group who doesn't conform to this conservative vision of Sunni Islam, which is disseminated through education and enforced through public punishments as discussed in the previous sections, represents a betrayal of the religion. Consequently, the Islamic State has liberally applied takfiri doctrine to label nonconformists as unbelievers. This, then, justifies the Islamic State's cleansing of nonbelievers from the territory of the caliphate through the acts of spectacular violence described above. In practice, this has involved confrontation with, and mass killings of, Kurds, Yazidis, and, perhaps most importantly, Shiite Muslims.12 In the end, then, the Islamic State's violence helps to forge a new collective identity premised on the power of Sunni Muslims to remake the Middle East, to rid the region of Western and heretical influences, and to restore the Islamic Middle East to its once great heights. The Importance and Limits of Understanding ISIS My primary interest in this article is to offer an understanding of important elements of the Islamic State's politics. In particular, I have drawn on key analytical and theoretical ideas developed by Foucault and Fanon to present a reading of ISIS's violence, of its type of revolutionary governance, and of its ideology. Throughout, I have had, as my foil, academic and popular accounts of the Islamic State that stress its innovative, unique qualities. Even where such accounts accurately locate ISIS's origins in the debacle that was America's invasion of Iraq in 2003, their emphasis on originality and uniqueness risk propagating Orientalist clash-of-civilization arguments about the nature of Islamist radicalism (Said 1979). If we focus on the Islamic State as a terrorist organization that engages in violence to satiate a lust for death and destruction, we miss the ways in which the rise of the Islamic State is a symptom of problematic state formation dating back to the end of the Ottoman Empire; we miss the ways it is the result of forces resisting neocolonialism; and we miss the way its ideology and violence are, therefore, rational and understandable. The analysis offered here, it should be clear, doesn't make the Islamic State any easier or more difficult to contain or defeat militarily, but it makes it more comprehensible. Indeed, it appears that the military defeat of the Islamic State may be well underway. Yet, the failure to design effective and inclusive political institutions that both promote material opportunity and build stable political identities will likely leave open the opportunity for another innovative form of Islamist radicalism to emerge in its place. Radical Islamist ideologies and practices remain potent forces in a region defined by autocracy, oil politics, economic inequality, and weak state capacity. Acknowledgements The author would like to thank participants of the Columbia University Law and Politics faculty seminar, as well as the editors of this journal and the two reviewers of this article, for insightful and helpful feedback and comments. Where the final paper has improved, it is due to this critical feedback. Footnotes 1 Throughout this paper I use ISIS and the Islamic State interchangeably. While this obfuscates the pre-caliphate from post-caliphate periods, the choice to use both Islamic State and ISIS reflects both usage in popular references and the fact that the logic of violence and would-be state formation animated Islamic State actors across its various names. 2 A nice overview of the growing literature on the Islamic State is provided by Byman (2016). Works that focus primarily on the Islamic State's ideology include Wood (2015) and Bunzel (2015). Works that focus primarily on ISIS violence include Neer and O'Toole (2014) and Friis (2015). Works that focus more comprehensively on the Islamic State's origins, violent practices, and governmental practices, in addition to its ideology, include Stern and Berger (2015); Cronin (2015); Walt (2015); al-Tamimi (2014); Caris and Reynolds (2014); Weiss and Hassan (2015); Haykel (2016). A number of think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for American Progress, have published policy papers focused on confronting ISIS militarily. A good summary of changing military strategy against ISIS is provided by Tilghman (2016). 3 In an earlier essay, Alessandrini (2009, 74) provides a more in-depth argument that Fanon and Foucault are linked “by a shared project of writing a history of the present.” 4 For a useful overview of the attraction of Orientalist explanations for Islamist politics, see, Brasted and Khan (2012). 5 ISIS may appear to engage in extraordinarily brutal forms of violence, but such violence is hardly unique. From death and dismemberment caused by American drone strikes and aerial assaults, to images of children scalded from allied firebombing of cities during World War II, to piles of bodies on road sides and in rivers during the Rwandan genocide, all states and societies have proven themselves capable of the most brutal forms of violence. Moreover, as countless recent studies make clear, sexual violence in warfare is an all-too-common runaway norm (see, for example, Enloe 1990, Leatherman 2011, Sjoberg 2013, and DeLargy 2013). Sexual violence was even an apparently widespread practice by Americans during World War II (Roberts 2013). 6 The Islamic State is the offspring of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which itself was the offspring of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the branch of al Qaeda established by Abu Musab al Zarqawi to resist the US occupation of Iraq. Zarqawi's methods, which often placed him in conflict with key leaders in al Qaeda, involved dramatic violence against Western targets and sectarian violence targeted primarily at Iraq's Shiite population (see, Stern and Berger 2015, 13; Weiss and Hassan 2015, 58–63; and Ibrahim 2015). Reuter (2015) outlines the close connections between former remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and Zarqawi's AQI, which constituted the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. 7 Naji's text also outlines a calculated logic for the gruesome execution of hostages. In a passage that recalls the logic of the spectacle as discussed by Foucault, he writes, “The policy of violence must also be followed such that if the demands are not met, the hostages should be liquidated in a terrifying manner, which will send fear into the hearts of the enemy and his supporters” (Naji 2003, 33). 8 Following Freeden (2006, 14), I see ideologies as “patterned and situated combinations of political concepts that temporarily define our understanding of the political and compete with alternative configurations over political support.” Ideologies, therefore, “are human and social products that bind together views of the world . . . and enable collective action.” Political ideologies provide cognitive maps that help answer questions about who we are, what kind of world we want to live in, and how should we act to achieve that vision. For Freeden, ideological conveyance occurs through more than just discursive practices, it occurs “through sight and non-verbal sound: marches, riots, anthems, uniforms, flags, sirens, the architecture of public institutions, standing when a dignitary enters the room, cartoons … to give a few random instances” (Freeden 2006, 21). Because much explanatory power has been ascribed to ISIS, my focus here is on understanding the way ISIS's state-making practices reveal its ideology. 9 For a more comprehensive analysis of how the violence of ISIS helps constitute collective identity, see Neer and O'Toole (2014). 10 Although it is worth pointing out that the Islamic State has relied, like the states it purports to replace, on the sale of oil for revenue. So, in some sense, it has sought to assume the levers of rentierism. 11 For an English language video that reveals how Sykes-Picot factors into ISIS thinking, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i357G1HuFcI. 12 The Islamic State was not the start of sectarian violence in the region and, indeed, may be an extension of how sectarianism has been playing out in Iraq dating back to the 1970s (if not earlier). Periodic Kurdish protest and armed engagements with the Iraqi state, coupled with Shia protest and armed insurgency, contributed to a great deal of state repression on both fronts (see Tripp 2007). A cruel and collective violence, such as the massive loss of life during the Anfal campaign, previewed the sectarian violence of ISIS. References Adib-Moghaddam Arshin . 2015 . “ No, Professor Walt, ISIS is Not a Revolutionary State .” Muftah (October 22). Accessed October 26, 2015, https://muftah.org/no-professor-walt-isis-is-not-a-revolutionary-state/#.WYSTLBXytqN. Allessandrini Anthony . 2009 . “ The Humanism Effect: Fanon, Foucault, and Ethics without Subjects .” Foucault Studies 7 ( Sept ): 64 – 80 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Allessandrini Anthony . 2014 . “ Foucault, Fanon, Intellectuals Revolutions .” Jadaliyya (April 1). Accessed December 27, 2017, http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/30478/ Foucault,-Fanon,-Intellectuals,-Revolutions . Al-Tamimi Aymenn Jawad . 2014 . “ The Dawn of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham .” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 16 : 5 – 15 . Atwan Abdel Bari . 2015 . “ When it Comes to ‘Islamic State,’ the West Just Doesn't Get it .” Open Democracy (July 9). Accessed October 26, 2015, https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/abdel-bari-atwan/when-it-comes-to-%E2%80%98islamic-state%E2%80%99-west-just-doesn%E2%80%99t-get-it . Benjamin Walter . 1978 . “ Critique of Violence .” In Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings , edited by Demetz Peter . New York : Schocken Books . Bunzel Cole . 2015 . “ From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State .” The Brookings Project on US Relations with the Islamic World, No. 19 . Brasted Howard V. Khan Adeel . 2012 . “ Islam and ‘The Clash of Civilizations’? An Historical Perspective .” In Routledge Handbook of Political Islam , edited by Akbarzadeh Shahram . New York : Routledge . Byman Daniel . 2016 . “ Understanding the Islamic State—A Review Essay .” International Security . 40 ( 4 ): 127 – 65 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Caris Charles C. Reynolds Samuel . 2014 . ISIS Governance in Syria . Washington DC : Institute for the Study of War . Cronin Audrey Kurth . 2015 . “ ISIS Is not a Terrorist Group .” Foreign Affairs 94 ( 2 ): 87 – 98 . DeLargy Pamela . 2013 . “ Sexual Violence and Women's Health in War .” In Women and Wars , edited by Cohn Carol . Cambridge : Polity . Enloe Cynthia . 1990 . Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics . Berkeley : University of California Press . Fanon Frantz . 1963 . The Wretched of the Earth . Translated by Constance Farrington . New York : Grove Press . Foucault Michel . 1977 . Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison . Translated by Sheridan Alan . New York : Vintage Books . Foucault Michel . 1984 . “ Right of Death and Power over Life .” In The Foucault Reader , edited by Rabinow Paul . New York : Pantheon . Freeden Michael . 2006 . “ Ideology and Political Theory .” Journal of Political Ideologies 11 ( 1 ): 3 – 22 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Friis Simone Molin . 2015 . “ ‘Beyond Anything We Have Ever Seen’: Beheading Videos and The Visibility of Violence in the War against ISIS .” International Affairs 91 ( 4 ): 725 – 46 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Frontline 2014 . “ The Rise of ISIS .” 28 October. Accessed February 14, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/rise-of-isis/ . Haykel Bernard . 2016 . “ ISIS and al-Qaeda—What Are They Thinking? Understanding the Adversary .” The Annals of the American Academy 668 ( November ): 71 – 81 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Ibrahim Azeem . 2015 . “ How Does One Explain the Extreme Violence of ISIS? Very Simply!” Al Arabiya English (July 23). Accessed February 14, 2018. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/07/23/How-does-one-explain-the-extreme-violence-of-ISIS-Very-simply-html . Leatherman Janie L. 2011 . Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict . Cambridge : Polity . Migdal Joel S . 1988 . Strong Societies and Weak States . Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press . Naji Abu Bakr . 2003 . The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical State Through Which the Umma Will Pass . Translated by McCants William . Neer Thomas O'Toole Mary Ellen . 2014 . “ The Violence of the Islamic State of Syria (ISIS): A Behavioral Perspective .” Violence and Gender 1 ( 4 ): 145 – 56 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Neumann Peter R. 2015 . Victims, Perpetrators, Assets: The Narratives of Islamic State Defectors . London : The International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence . Qutb Sayyid . 2009 . “ In the Shade of the Qur'an .” In Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought , edited by Euben Roxanne Zaman Muhammad Qasim . Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press . Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty . 2015 . “ Foreign Fighters in Iraq and Syria: Where Do They Come From? ” Accessed December 27, 2017. https://www.rferl.org/a/foreign-fighters-syria-iraq-is-isis-isil-infographic/26584940.html . Reuter Christoph . 2015 . “ The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State .” Spiegel Online International (April 18). Accessed November 1, 2015. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islamic-state-files-show-structure-of-islamist-terror-group-a-1029274.html . Roberts Mary Louise . 2013 . What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France . Chicago : University of Chicago Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Ruthven Malise . 2014 . “ The Map ISIS Hates .” New York Review of Books . (June 25). Accessed November 1, 2015, http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/jun/25/map-isis-hates/ . Said Edward . 1979 . Orientalism . New York : Vintage Books . Sakwa Richard . 2006 . “ From Revolution to Krizis: The Transcending Revolutions of 1989–91 .” Comparative Politics 38 ( 4 ): 459 – 78 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Schmitt Carl . 1996 . The Concept of the Political . Chicago : University of Chicago Press . Sjoberg Laura . 2013 . Gendering Global Conflict: Toward a Feminist Theory of War . New York : Columbia University Press . Sly Liz Ramadan Ahmet . 2014 . “ Insurgents Seize Iraqi City of Mosul as Security Forces Flee .” Washington Post (June 10). Accessed December 27, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/insurgents-seize-iraqi-city-of-mosul-as-troops-flee/2014/06/10/21061e87-8fcd-4ed3-bc94-0e309af0a674_story.html?utm_term=.23188686787c . Stern Jessica Berger J. M. . 2015 . ISIS: The State of Terror . New York : HarperCollins . Strindberg Anders Warn Mats . 2011 . Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance . Malden, MA : Polity . “This Is the Promise of Allah.” 2014 . Accessed October 16, 2016. https://ia902505.us.archive.org/28/items/poa_25984/EN.pdf . Tilghman Andrew . 2016 . “ This Is the Pentagon's New Strategy to Defeat ISIS .” Military Times (January 15). Accessed July 29, 2017. http://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2016/01/15/this-is-the-pentagon-s-new-strategy-to-defeat-isis . Tilly Charles . 1994 . “ States and Nationalism in Europe, 1492–1992 .” Theory and Society 23 ( 1 ): 131 – 46 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Tripp Charles . 2007 . A History of Iraq , third edition . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Walt Stephen M. 2015 . “ What Should We Do If the Islamic State Wins?” Foreign Policy (June 10). Accessed October 16, 2015. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/10/what-should-we-do-if-isis-islamic-state-wins-containment/ . Weiss Michael Hassan Hassan . 2015 . ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror . New York : Regan Arts . Wood Graeme . 2015 . “ What ISIS Really Wants .” The Atlantic (March). Accessed October 12, 2015. http://theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/waht-isis-really-wants/384980/ . © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Political Sociology Oxford University Press

The Islamic State: Violence and Ideology in a Post-colonial Revolutionary Regime

International Political Sociology , Volume Advance Article (2) – May 23, 2018

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Abstract

Abstract This paper seeks to counter popular and academic discourse that emphasizes the uniqueness or unprecedented nature of the Islamic State. Many of these claims highlight the violence perpetrated by ISIS as evidence of its unique ideology. This essay draws from the work of Foucault and Fanon, as well as from Richard Sakwa’s thinking on the changing nature of the concept of revolution, in order to counter these popular narratives. The paper begins by reading ISIS’s public executions through the lens of Foucault’s discussion of the spectacle of violence in Discipline and Punish. What is often described as unique, irrational, unprecedented violence is reread as advancing particular rational goals. Yet, rather than dismiss ISIS’s ideology altogether, the paper argues that ISIS is best understood as exhibiting qualities of an anticolonial revolutionary regime. Through violent actions, it forges new collective identities grounded in a national culture rooted in an effort to find authenticity in precolonial Sunni Islam. Much of the scholarly work on the Islamic State1 has focused on explaining its rise, identifying how it might be confronted or defeated, and understanding its ideology and political practices.2 At times, this scholarly literature has confronted a tendency in media coverage and political rhetoric to exaggerate the threat that ISIS poses to the United States (e.g., Friis 2015). Yet, running through some of this literature, as well as more popular rhetoric, is a view of the Islamic State as a unique force both in the regional politics of the Middle East and in the broader scope of Islamist radicalism (e.g., Wood 2015). Indeed, there are many aspects to ISIS's politics, ideology, and tactics that make it different from prior Islamist organizations. Unlike other militarized Islamist organizations, ISIS has advanced forms of violence, governance, and sectarianism that have actively sought to remake borders (and by extension the state system) throughout the entire Middle East and beyond (through affiliated individuals and groups from Nigeria to Bangladesh). This article offers an interpretive framework that seeks to make sense of ISIS's seemingly unique qualities in ways that help it appear less new and unprecedented. Drawing on the work of Foucault and Fanon, I provide exegesis and analysis of Islamist texts critical to ISIS's self-definition, ISIS videos, and particular practices, in order to offer a framework for interpreting the violent acts and practices that ISIS has engaged in; its processes of consolidating authority and imposing rule; and the nature of its ideology, which underpins both its violence and state-making practices. Alessandrini (2014) offers a compelling case for the “productive possibilities” for writing a history of the present that can result from “thinking Fanon and Foucault together.”3 For Alessandrini, what binds Foucault and Fanon is how their work points to critical ways for reading and analyzing current political practices—to unpack their meaning in ways that seek to understand, rather than to judge, the subjects they interrogate. Here, insights from Foucault's analysis of discipline and punishment and Fanon's analysis of colonialism and anticolonialism are combined to make ISIS's violence more intelligible. Drawing insights from both Foucault and Fanon allows for a better understanding of ISIS than would an analysis that drew primarily from one or the other. Foucault offers useful lenses for understanding both the Islamic State's violence and its governing practices, while Fanon helps locate the Islamic State as the latest in a line of anticolonial Islamist insurgencies. Just as Friis (2015) examined beheading videos and the visibility of the war against ISIS to problematize arguments that ISIS's violence is “beyond anything we have seen,” this paper locates the Islamic State within the broader, century-long struggle of Islamists to respond to the exigencies of the post-Ottoman Middle East (Strindberg and Warn 2011). Highlighting the uniqueness of the Islamic State is problematic on two fronts. First, we ought to consider what implications arise from stressing ISIS as a unique political force. At the most basic level, stressing uniqueness suggests that neither existing social science frameworks nor, by extension, existing strategies to contain, resist, and defeat the Islamic State are available; that both have to be invented de novo. Second, given the need to make sense of this seemingly unique and innovative force in world politics, there is a troubling tendency to root such de novo understandings in the importance of ISIS's ideology. Thus, in the conclusion of his influential article, Wood (2015) writes of the ideological appeal of the Islamic State: That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophesy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Followers of the Islamic State, this line of reasoning goes, display what Weber has called value-related rationality more than goal-oriented (or more strategic) rationality. Moreover, such reasoning implies that ISIS's is a value-related rationality steeped in a messianic, end-of-days version of Sunni Islam that manifests itself without parallel in Middle East history. By establishing a new caliphate, the Islamic State seeks to hasten the final confrontation that will restore Islamic greatness. Descriptions of the Islamic State's uniqueness and of its ideological purity, therefore, contribute both to a tendency to exaggerate the importance of the Islamic State, overstating its attraction, reach, and influence, and to the reification of Orientalist beliefs, which continue to justify Western military intervention.4 The Islamic State might not be as unique as some suggest; the Islamic State emerged out of a century of Sunni Islamist political mobilization. It reflects, therefore, learning and innovation from lessons drawn across these experiences. Three aspects of the Islamic State that are different from prior versions of Sunni jihadism and, therefore, worth pointing out and keeping in mind throughout this analysis include: the innovative way in which ISIS has recorded, disseminated, and broadcast its violence; a concerted focus on sectarian, especially anti-Shiite violence; and rather than a patient, teleological view of history, an emphasis on the immediate creation of a new caliphate. ISIS is innovative in its use of high quality video productions designed to attract viewers; these video depictions of violent operations are meant to entertain as much as to instill fear, depending on the viewing audience. It is this symbolic depiction of violence and the consequent use of social media to broadcast violent successes, rather than the violence itself, that has separated ISIS from prior militant Islamist organizations.5 Not the first to display violence through choreographed videos posted on social media platforms, ISIS has nonetheless perfected this practice. A second innovation of ISIS is its profound sectarianism, developed through a broad application of Takfiri doctrine, whereby ISIS leaders define other Muslims (particular Shiites) as apostates and, therefore, justifiably subjects for violent confrontation. Such a practice, which has been crucial to ISIS, emerged, in part, out of the Sunni organizations associated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq during the decade following the 2003 US invasion. In addition, ISIS has more systematically targeted other non-Muslim religious communities for forced conversion or extermination than prior Islamist organizations. The targeting of Christians and Yazidis in northern Iraq are particularly notable examples. Finally, ISIS offers an important innovation in the world of Salafist jihadism. Al Qaeda's teleological view of history drove the organization's clandestine behavior, where organizational secrecy, with punctuated and dramatic displays of violence, were the order of the day, secure in the knowledge that history would eventually lead to the fall of the West and the return of Islamic greatness. ISIS appears less content to wait for history to play itself out but is, instead, driven by the belief that more open and widespread action can bring about the return of Islamic greatness in the more immediate future. This split is a central point of contention between the Islamic State and al Qaeda globally and within the Middle East. In developing a framework for understanding ISIS, this paper proceeds in three linked parts. First, drawing on the understanding of power and control developed by Foucault, I explore both the logic and potential limits of the Islamic State's reliance on the spectacle of violence. My focus here is on the way in which the Islamic State uses violence as punishment, which constitutes its most dramatic forms of violence but by no means the entirety of its violent behavior. Here, I draw on a number of sources that highlight the essential rationality of Islamic State violence, as well as on textual exegesis of The Management of Savagery, a 2003/4 jihadist text that has prominently informed ISIS's thinking and action. Second, I explore how the use of violence in the Islamic State's efforts to consolidate authority, remake society, and impose its strategy of survival reflects its distinct form of what Foucault calls governmentality. I argue that one reason the Islamic State appears new and unprecedented has to do with the way that ISIS reflects the revolutionary logic of twentieth century emancipatory revolutionary regimes, a form of biopolitical control that receded with the end of the Cold War. Shades of ISIS's form of rule, in other words, might be seen in the Khmer Rouge, in Stalinist Russia, and even in the early years of the post-1979 Islamic Republic of Iran. Finally, I examine how both the Islamic State's ideology and its violence reflect Frantz Fanon's insights about the logic of anticolonial resistance and help locate the Islamic State as a would-be anticolonial revolutionary regime. Taken together, the Islamic State's deployment of savage violence is both ideologically informed and strategically oriented; its state-making behavior seems out of place in the postrevolutionary, neoliberal moment but has its analogues in prior revolutionary regimes and reflects the enduring logic of anticolonialism outlined by Fanon, replete with the impossible search for an authentic national identity in a mythically pure past. An accurate understanding of the Islamic State remains important, even though recent military defeats have diminished its territorial control and undermined its effort to build a form of government premised on the calculated use of violence combined with practices that inculcated its vision for Islamic life. The military defeat of the Islamic State has done little to change the broader conditions that enabled the rise of its version of an anticolonial Islamist revolutionary regime within the Middle East, and the continued allegiance to the ISIS model in Africa and Central Asia hint that it may be premature to celebrate the demise of the Islamic State model entirely. Understanding the Islamic State may help focus future analyses on innovations in Islamist radicalism that emerge both within the Middle East and, possibly, from the scores of Islamic State militants who have returned to their home countries. Viral Executions and Beheadings: The Islamic State's Spectacle of Violence Many popular accounts point to ISIS's extreme brutality as distinguishing it from other radical forces of Islamist militarism. The Islamic State’s beheadings, mass executions, crucifixions, and sexual enslavement, the argument goes, place it in a brutal category all of its own. For instance, in introducing American audiences to ISIS, PBS Frontline stressed to viewers that even al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Jabaat al Nusra, found ISIS's violence too much and, thereby, resisted, rather than swore allegiance to the rising Islamic State (Frontline 2014). Indeed, from mass killings to mass sexual enslavement, ISIS's extreme violence is what defines it to most Western audiences. Yet, the violence of ISIS is neither new nor merely psychotic. It has its roots in the insurgency and resistance to the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003; it reflects the violence used by regimes from Saddam Hussein's Iraq (Weiss and Hassan 2015, 23) to Hafez and Bashar al-Assad's Syria (Weiss and Hassan 2015, 134–35); and its logic was clearly articulated by Jihadi-Salafist ideologists in the decade prior to the declaration of an Islamic caliphate.6 Much of the scholarship on the Islamic State contends that Abu Bakr Naji's jihadist text The Management of Savagery greatly influenced Abu Musab al Zarqawi and, therefore, provides the historical justifications for the Islamic State's violence (e.g., Stern and Berger 2015, 23; Weiss and Hassan 2015, 40–41; and Atwan 2015). This text is worth considering insofar as it offers a rational explanation for savage violence and complicates arguments that advance cultural or religious explanations for ISIS's violence. Naji (2003, 8–10) begins his account by asserting that direct confrontation with America “removes the aura of invincibility” and will “spread confidence in the souls of Muslims.” For Naji, forcing the United States to attack the Islamic world directly, rather than hiding behind proxy states, will undermine American propaganda and gain supporters (Naji 2003, 10, 18). The initial period of conflict, which Naji refers to as one of vexation and exhaustion, is designed to sap the enemy of strength and, through dazzling victories, attract recruits (Naji 2003, 16). The region of savagery, then, must be strategically selected based on an evaluation of the enemy's weaknesses. Naji's strategy is based on a principle of escalating conflict, where movement from small to large operations creates an image of increasing power (Naji 2003, 29). Waves of operations, unlike al Qaeda's concentration on a few dramatic and isolated attacks, are designed to “send a message to the enemy that waves of fear and paying the price for its actions will never end” (Naji 2003, 29). Savage violence, thus, creates a demonstration effect that multiplies the global impact of every operation (Naji 2003, 19, 30). Consequently, after the stage of “vexation and exhaustion” comes the “paying the price stage.” Successful violence extends conflict to the largest possible area, attacks the luxury and economic interests of the enemy, and engages in unexpected actions that emphasize the enemy's paying the price for its current practices (Naji 2003, 83–84). As states fail and savagery takes hold, in come Islamic groups to administer savage regions, to restore order and justice (Naji 2003, 23). Naji acknowledges that his call for jihad is, essentially, a call for crude violence. “One who previously engaged in Jihad,” he writes, “knows that it is naught but violence, crudeness, terrorism, frightening (others), and massacring” (Naji 2003, 31). Yet, even through this religious lens, Naji's doctrine is not about the religious or ideological justification for violence but the strategic imperative for it. In the end, Naji's text advocates a strategic framework that is the mirror image of the US strategy of shock and awe, first articulated in a 1996 report and later implemented in the first wave of bomb attacks on Iraq in March 2003. “It behooves us,” he concludes, “to make them think one thousand times before attacking us” (Naji 2003, 31). This rationality for terrorism and savage violence has served as a guide for ISIS's actions, which promotes its spectacular violence in order to reinforce an image of power and invincibility. Islamic State violence has taken a number of forms, including military-style assaults on cities and Syrian and Iraqi military positions, guerilla-style urban fighting, and the violence associated with punishing opponents, enemies, and those who don't conform to its mandates. Here, my primary focus is unpacking these latter forms of punishment, which, through the dissemination of execution videos, have been among the most publicized elements of ISIS's violent activity.7 Foucault's insights on discipline and punishment provide one useful starting point for analyzing and interpreting Islamic State violence. In his study of the birth of modern forms of control, Discipline and Punish, Foucault states that his text is grounded by four general rules, three of which seem critical if we are to understand this aspect of the Islamic State's use of violence. Foremost, Foucault (1977, 23) suggests we not focus entirely on punishment as repressive; rather, we need to explore the “positive effects” of punishment. That is, we ought to focus as much on how punishment is designed to produce particular behaviors as it is designed to deter them. Consequently, a second rule of relevance is the need to “regard punishment as a political tactic” (Foucault 1977, 23). No matter how much we'd like to focus on ISIS's brutality as evil and vile, in other words, we must focus on how it is designed to advance particular political purposes. Finally, Foucault states that, in exploring the nature of punishment, we emphasize how, through punishment, “the body itself is invested by power relations” (Foucault 1977, 24). Through punishment, bodies are acted upon, and these actions are designed to convey particular meanings, both to the individual being punished and, more broadly, as lessons for other bodies. How, in essence, should we interpret the corporeal dimensions of Islamic State brutality? In what ways does ISIS's brutality seek to shape the behavior both of its adherents and its adversaries? ISIS's brutal violence is interesting because it represents less the logic of modern forms of control chronicled by Foucault—those forms that rely increasingly on examination and observation, on Panopticism—and more on the logic of the spectacle. To illustrate the logic of the spectacle, Foucault (1977, 3–7) begins Discipline and Punish with the vivid retelling of the botched execution of Damiens in 1757. Accused of regicide, Damiens was to be publicly drawn and quartered after having flesh torn from his body and molten lead poured upon those spots where his flesh had been removed. As Foucault retells this narrative, the horses are too tired to complete their critical task, and after several failed attempts, the addition of two horses, and a series of cuts to help the task along, the execution was finally completed. The horrified images of my students’ faces as I read these passages aloud in class confirm Foucault's suspicion that we often mistakenly interpret this incident and what it signals for our different forms of execution and punishment today. A change in our moral sentiments, the logic goes, has allowed us to see this barbarous violence as cruel and unusual; a modern society requires cleaner, less cruel punishments (Foucault 1977, 7–11). This, of course, misses the logic of the spectacle as a form of punishment. “The public execution,” Foucault (1977, 47) writes, “is to be understood not only as a judicial, but also as a political ritual. It belongs, even in minor cases, to the ceremonies by which power is manifested.” The public execution is about restoring, in the eyes of those who witness the punishment of the body of the condemned, the awesome power of the state (Foucault 1977, 48–49). The public execution supports the state's claims to be the chief rule-maker; it demands obedience to the state's wishes; and it demonstrates the capacity of the state to root out and exact punishment upon those who disobey the rules. Moreover, Foucault (1977, 57) argues that, “In the ceremonies of the public execution, the main character was the people, whose real and immediate presence was required for the performance.” For Foucault, seeing the execution was designed to arouse feelings of terror, direct anger at the accused, and reinforce the power of political authority (Foucault 1977, 58). Foucault points out that, to be effective, the execution requires the presence of a public to observe the actions and internalize their meaning. While ISIS certainly carries out public punishments of enemy combatants, criminals, or anyone whose lifestyle or beliefs do not comport with the evolving ideology of the Islamic State, I'm interested here in their use of video to record their violence for a wider audience. Indeed, through the use of highly produced and choreographed videos, ISIS offers the spectacle of its violence to an audience that need not be in direct proximity of the violence itself. Stern and Berger (2015, 3) call these videos “violence porn with a mission to intimidate and enrage.” “ISIS is using beheadings,” they write, “as a form of marketing, manipulation, and recruitment, determined to bring the public display of savagery into our lives, trying to instill in us a state of terror.” This is not the first time Islamist militants have sought to multiply the effect of violence through videos disseminated both to news organizations and through internet platforms. It is, though, perhaps the most highly refined use of mass media propaganda. ISIS's videos don't simply record spectacular violence, they craft a story for the viewing public that helps convey to the viewer just how to interpret the violence. It is instructive to unpack one example of the Islamic State's spectacular executions in order to illustrate the spectacle of violence in practice. In early February 2015, ISIS released a video that culminated in the execution of a Jordanian air force pilot, Muath al-Kassasbeh, who had been captured after his plane had crashed during anti-ISIS operations in late December 2014. Most news agencies provided small excerpts from the video, focusing on the moments just before al-Kassasbeh, detained in an iron cage, was burned alive. The full ISIS video, however, was a twenty-three-minute production that ultimately made clear that the manner of execution was designed to mimic the deaths of those caught in anti-ISIS airstrikes. The video begins with interview footage of Jordanian King Abdullah, designed to paint a picture of the monarchy as working hand-in-hand with the United States in military missions throughout the Islamic world. Multiple cuts of US/Jordanian military cooperation are featured throughout the opening three minutes. The explicit argument here is that Jordan, in siding with American military interests, has demonstrated its anti-Islamic nature, thus legitimizing violent retribution. The video then cuts to al-Kassasbeh seated at a table, offering a detailed description of the sortie that preceded his capture. The text of this interview had been published in ISIS's magazine, Dabiq. Dressed in an orange jump suit, which likely is designed to recall the prisoner clothing of American detainees, he presents what amounts to a confession. Set off as an eerie effigy against a black screen with pop-up images of text, as well as schematics of the Jordanian air force base from which he took off and of the F-16 that he was flying, al-Kassasbah describes a joint mission involving planes from the UAE, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. He even describes the laser-guided munitions the planes carried. Striking in his discussion of these operations is the fact that all of the Middle Eastern and North African countries participating in anti-ISIS military operations are using US-built military aircraft. The argument that these regimes advance Western colonial interests couldn't be clearer. The video then presents several minutes of airstrike videos, intermingled with images of dead and wounded people (many young children) burned as a result of airstrikes. The film cuts between al-Kassasbah walking to his execution and images of bodies being pulled from buildings collapsed in airstrikes. As al-Kassasbah steps into the metal cage in which he is to die, the viewer is acutely aware that his execution is metaphorically designed to reflect the deaths of those trapped in buildings and burned alive by anti-ISIS air strikes. This spectacle has a thesis and a purpose; it is not the incomprehensible violence of a death cult. The video reveals much about how the Islamic State uses the spectacle of violence to advance its goals. Here, the public torture and execution explicitly seeks to “reveal the truth” of the crime for which execution is a justifiable punishment (Foucault 1977, 44). The spectacle of the execution is both an act of punishment and an act of truth production. In this instance, the truth that ISIS produces casts the West as colonial, crusader powers whose interests are supported by a series of regimes that continue to act in un-Islamic ways. Their coordinated violence underpins the just response of ISIS. Moreover, the execution itself serves to restore justice and, in so doing, restore the image of ISIS's power. Al-Kassasbah's execution is, in Foucault's (1977, 49) language, “an emphatic affirmation of power and of [ISIS's] superiority.” The spectacle of violence embodied by such public executions is not simply designed to punish behavior but to produce desired behavior in the public observers of the violence. Indeed, as Benjamin (1978) writes, violence has two primary functions: it may be either law-making, or law-preserving. Though these two functions are not entirely free of tension, what binds them is the way in which violence is designed to enact or produce desired outcomes, to prescribe and enforce rules of behavior. Insofar as technology has expanded the publicness of the execution, there are two key differences in who constitutes the public who witnesses ISIS's executions: one public is constituted by external and internal adversaries; the other public is constituted by external and internal potential supporters of the Islamic State. Thus, the affirmation of power represented by the execution serves different purposes depending on which part of the public the viewer comes from. That part of the public representing potential subjects of the Islamic State is being asked to join ISIS, to support the fledgling Islamic State, to emigrate, to be willing to fight on its behalf. Violent execution videos produce in this public faith in the status and power of the Islamic State. The other part of the public present as viewers of the execution represent internal and external threats to the Islamic State and is being told that resistance is futile; submission to the Islamic State's authority is the only choice. Moreover, ISIS's execution videos, especially after the execution of journalist James Foley in August 2014, have contributed to Western fears of the threat ISIS poses. Thus, as we bear witness to the spectacle of Islamic State violence, we unwittingly give the Islamic State the power that it purported to already have. The spectacle of violence has in certain ways worked well for the Islamic State. It has secured the allegiance of various rebel groups and many, though not all, smaller Islamist militant groups fighting in Syria. It garnered close to twenty-five thousand foreign fighters who came from places as varied as Tunisia and Great Britain to join in building the new caliphate (Radio Free Europe 2015). Despite being more numerous and heavily armed than the one thousand ISIS attackers, the fleeing of some thirty thousand Iraqi troops from Mosul in mid-June 2014 demonstrates the effective capacity of ISIS's publicized executions to produce the behavior it desires (Sly and Ramadan 2014). Yet, despite its apparent successes, the drawback of the spectacle—the possibility of sympathy with the condemned—is something with which ISIS must contend. Indeed, the downfall of the Islamic State's precursors, AQI and ISI, owed much to the distaste for Zarqawi's extreme violence. ISIS appears to have learned some lessons from Zarqawi's overreach (al-Tamimi 2014, 8). While AQI and ISI targeted even the Sunni community in Iraq, ISIS has reserved its most extreme violence primarily for non-Sunni communities—for Shiites, Kurds, Yazidis, and Westerners, as well as for Sunni Muslims fighting on behalf of foreign regimes. Yet, as the Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence report on Islamic State defectors makes clear, ISIS's attacks against other Sunni Muslims in different factions resisting Assad, rather than a concerted focus on taking out Assad's regime, along with concerns over corruption and the generally harsh living conditions in the Islamic State, held the potential for creating further defections (Neumann 2015). Indeed, ISIS's brutal violence is, in part, to blame for the differences that split the Islamic State from al-Qaeda-backed groups (al-Tamimi 2014, 15). Moreover, while Islamic State propaganda may have initially frightened the Iraqi army, it hardened the resolve of Kurdish fighters, and a growing number of states entered into direct military confrontation with the Islamic State. Its total loss of territory seems, at the current moment, a brutal inevitability. The Islamic State as Revolutionary Regime In the previous section, I drew on insights from Foucault's analysis of different types of discipline and punishment to offer a reading of the Islamic State's reliance on the public execution as a spectacle of violence, which has been central to concerns about ISIS and the threat it poses to the West. This analysis challenged some popular understandings of ISIS brutality. In this section, I explore how ISIS represents something more than a terrorist organization or an insurgent group. It represents a would-be revolutionary regime (e.g., Walt 2015). Moving beyond its spectacular violence, this section focuses on ISIS's practices of government, and its efforts to inculcate particular ways of thinking, acting, and living in the populations over which it asserts control. While these practices and techniques may appear new and unprecedented, this section explores how they are, in fact, reminiscent of similar practices deployed by prior revolutionary regimes. In at least two ways, journalists and scholars have resisted understanding the Islamic State as a would-be revolutionary regime. For some, calling the Islamic State a revolutionary regime overstates the extent to which ISIS draws support from a mobilized and revolutionary population (Adib-Moghaddam 2015). Adib-Moghaddam, for example, criticizes Walt for suggesting that the Islamic State looks like other revolutionary movements in history, arguing instead that ISIS is “a psychopathic terror sect . . . a cartel of Fascist bandits, more comparable to the Ku Klux Klan . . . more Pablo Escobar than Robespierre.” The second, and not unrelated, reason ISIS is not often described as a would-be revolutionary regime results from the obsession with ISIS's violence. A focus on the Islamic State's brutality, which, as explored above, is often rooted in problematic arguments about the role of ISIS's ideology, tends to obscure ISIS's state- and society-making projects and even the role of violence in this process. From revenue generation to morality policing, to an elaborate governing structure, to the productive nature of its spectacular violence, the Islamic State has engaged in both institution building and the articulation of what Joel Migdal (1988) calls strategies of survival in order to remake the Middle East in its ideological image. Indeed, it is in the specific nature of ISIS's state and society making, and not necessarily in its spectacular violence, that we can see the importance of the Islamic State's ideology.8 Again, Naji's text, The Management of Savagery, offers a useful understanding of the principles that guide ISIS's governance. To manage savagery, Naji makes clear, is to create a state, and this involves: spreading internal security; providing food and medical treatment; securing the region of savagery from the invasions of enemies; establishing Sharia justice among the people . . . raising the level of belief and combat efficiency during the training of the youth . . . and so on. (Naji 2003, 11) Creating a state, in other words, is about borders, education, morality, law, intelligence, and revenue generation. In the area that it controlled militarily, the Islamic State sought to build legitimacy for its ideological vision through a protostate that involved a clear political hierarchy, a growing and locally rooted administrative bureaucracy, and multiple types of police forces, educational institutions, a media operation, and a court system that included “the use of hudud corporal punishments for an assortment of crimes such as theft and blasphemy” (al-Tamimi 2014, 16). Caris and Reynolds (2014, 14), focusing primarily on examining how ISIS governed its capital, Raqqa, divide ISIS's governance into two categories: “administration and Muslim services.” On the one hand, “Islamic outreach, Shari'a institutes, elementary education, law enforcement (both local and religious), courts, recruitment, and tribal relations,” they write, “fall under the administrative category.” On the other hand, “the provision of services, including humanitarian aid, bakeries, water, and electricity falls under what ISIS calls the ‘Department of Muslim Services’” (Caris and Reynolds 2014, 14). The dominant focus on ISIS's brutality and violence tends to obscure the actions and practices that fall under what Foucault describes as the art of government, or those rationalities, techniques, and practices deployed to constitute desired subjects. In fact, ISIS's violent practices, insofar as they seek to produce desired behaviors in citizens and subjects of the Islamic State, constitute an important element of how the Islamic State produces knowledge, truth, and control. As the previous section made clear, the spectacle of public executions can be understood as an exercise of ISIS's sovereign power. The calculated application of violence sought to produce in spectators’ correct action (e.g., obedience and respect), as well as a particular version of the truth. Yet, in addition to its violence, the Islamic State's more mundane practices, including education, control of prices, provision of public services, etc., were designed to constitute a population that reflected the desired attitudes, behaviors, and values that underpin the Islamic State's conservative interpretations of Sunni Islam. This “series of interventions and regulatory controls” constitutes what Foucault (1984, 262) terms the “bio-power” of the Islamic State. The Islamic State's ideology serves as the legitimating anchor for its governing practices. It is an ideology that promises emancipation to those who are willing to live out the Islamic State's way of life. Drawing from Richard Sakwa's analysis of the concept of revolution, I argue that the Islamic State exhibits a type of government most associated with a particular moment in revolutionary politics. Sakwa's reflection on the changing nature of revolution at the close of the twentieth century, and my contention that ISIS reflects a form of government more associated with prior revolutionary regimes, helps explain why some continue to see the Islamic State as new and unprecedented. Toward the end of the twentieth century, popular uprisings dramatically brought about the end of European communism, but rather than replacing it with new revolutionary regimes, underpinned by new revolutionary ideologies, or promises of emancipating people from all their worldly hardships, the protests that brought down communist regimes in Europe focused primarily on making the existing regimes go away. As Sakwa (2006, 459) notes, the overthrow of European communism represented “the repudiation at the social level of revolution as an emancipatory act.” For those who grew up under regimes promising emancipation through revolution, the reality of a life full of political repression and indoctrination and, at times, the ways in which repression proved the very hypocrisy of professed ideology, left few clamoring for a new totalizing revolutionary ideology. In short, the end of the twentieth century, Sakwa argues, gave rise to a new brand of antirevolutionary revolutionism. “By the end of the twentieth century,” he writes, “the notion of emancipatory revolutionism lost whatever popular resonance it once might have had in the countries that claimed to be building Communism as its basis” (Sakwa 2006, 460). In this section, I briefly explore how Sakwa's argument provides insight into the nature of Arab Spring protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, in interesting ways, the rise of the Islamic State out of the instability fostered by the Arab Spring represents the perhaps unexpected return of an emancipatory revolutionary regime. This revolutionary regime, which seems so out of place given the decisive and epochal transformation in revolutionary politics noted by Sakwa, explains why ISIS's rise is viewed as unique and innovative. Sakwa's analysis of the revolutions of 1989 was motivated by the goal of exploring what, if anything, distinguished the world-historical significance of these events, for unlike prior revolutionary moments, the events of 1989 didn't give rise to entirely new forms of economics or governance. The importance of these events, on the contrary, he argued, can be found in the ways in which they transformed the very understanding of revolution itself. To reach this conclusion, Sakwa offers an exploration of three prior and epochal understandings of revolution: revolution as naturalistic cyclicity, Enlightenment revolutionism, and emancipatory revolutionism, which is most relevant to this analysis of ISIS. For Sakwa, emancipatory understandings of revolution emerged in the nineteenth century with thinkers such as Marx who argued that revolutionary practice would do more than bring progress; it would bring about full human emancipation. According to this line of thinking, revolutions could solve all social problems (Sakwa 2006, 463). Indeed, it is this emancipatory version of revolutions which underpinned revolutionary ideologies and practices throughout most of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Emancipatory visions offered by leaders from Pol Pot to Vladimir Lenin, from Gamal Nasser to Ayatollah Khomeini, promised to remake the societies over which they presided. Inevitably, in order to achieve emancipation, revolutionary regimes found it necessary to deploy forms of government that imposed their visions on society through education, indoctrination, repression, and fear. Propaganda and robust internal security apparatuses provided the tools for achieving emancipation. In short, twentieth century revolutionary regimes involved relatively similar rationalities and practices of government. Yet, none of these revolutionary regimes was able to achieve its ideological vision, and for those individuals unlucky enough to voice discontent about life in such a regime, life became increasingly solitary, nasty, poor, brutish, and short. For Sakwa, such was the context in which the revolutions of 1989 took place. The revolutions of 1989 were predicated on the collective rejection of the logic of emancipatory revolutionism; they were, in sum, antirevolutions (Sakwa 2006, 468). The organizations, practices, and very goals of the antirevolutionary revolutions of 1989 marked, for Sakwa, a fourth epochal moment in the politics of revolutions. Gone was a politics predicated on identifying policies, ideologies, and practices that might achieve emancipation, and in its place was a new politics predicated on the value of political activism itself. In other words, the revolutionary and world historical element of the 1989 revolutions involved a commitment not to the outcomes of revolutionary change but to the very democratic aspects of the revolutionary practices themselves (Sakwa 2006, 472). As Sakwa seems to suspect, this shift in revolutionary thinking has affected revolutionary politics beyond Eastern Europe. In many ways, that the Arab Spring protests demanded that autocratic regimes go; that the people have a greater say; and not that some revolutionary ideology be imposed in order to achieve emancipation from worldly problems, continued to reflect the movement beyond and against the emancipatory revolutions of the previous century and half. All of this makes the rise of ISIS even more striking, for the Islamic State exhibits the hallmarks of an emancipatory revolutionary regime at a moment when revolutionary politics had seemingly rejected both the governing style and the ideological promise of such regimes. ISIS's focus on education, and in particular on how education serves as a means for imposing its religious ideology, makes clearer the Islamic State's emancipatory revolutionism. Caris and Reynolds identify several ways in which ISIS advances its religious ideology. Its initial outreach took the form of Da'wa events; these call those who live in areas the Islamic State comes to control to meetings that “educate participants about ISIS core beliefs” (Caris and Reynolds 2014, 15). In addition, the Islamic State constituted a religious police force (al-Hisba), which subsequently assured public cooperation with the core beliefs that had been elucidated in Da'wa meetings. From assuring women present themselves with proper modesty to assuring that stores do not unfairly raise prices on customers, the religious police help constitute the everyday social practices that reflect the Islamic State's version of Salafism. ISIS also replaced all previous schools with religious schools of its own making, part of a strategy targeted at recruiting children into its state-making efforts. The combined effort of this educational outreach is to instill in the public a faith that, in complying with the Islamic State, individuals will be liberated from those forces that have held them back. The message from the Islamic State's educational efforts is clear—following ISIS's rules provides residents of the Islamic state with security, stability, and financial resources. The contrast to the lawlessness and insecurity that had engulfed Syria in the aftermath of prodemocracy protests in 2011, or the anti-Sunni corruption and discrimination that defined life under Shiite rule in Iraq, couldn't be greater. “For the local community,” Weiss and Hassan (2015, 223–24) write, “the difference [of life inside in contrast to outside the Islamic State] was quickly felt: ISIS provided safety and security; its methods of justice were swift, and nobody was exempt from punishment, including its own fighters who deviated from the strict moral code it had laid down.” They conclude, “ISIS established itself as a viable law enforcer and won credit from two important societal segments: those who were disillusioned with the Syrian revolution and started to reminisce about safety and security under the regime, and those who were alienated by the [Free Syrian Army] and Islamic factions” (Weiss and Hassan 2015, 228). Stern and Berger (2015, 211) suggest that “like other ‘total organizations,’ ISIS aims to create a new form of man.” This new man is one who is capable of shaping history through successful and violent direct confrontation with the West and the local regimes that have advanced Western colonialism. It is a new man whose steadfast commitment to Sunni fundamentalism provides the shared identity upon which this resistance depends. It is a new man capable not only of surviving but of thriving in his emancipation from Western colonialism. It is a new man who can tear down borders imposed by Western powers and redraw them through the establishment of a new caliphate. This, of course, is an old theme running through Islamist politics. Sayyid Qutb (2009, 149), for example, described jihad as “a positive movement that aims to liberate man throughout the world.” The emancipatory promise offered by the Islamic State is captured in “This is the Promise of Allah (2014),” a document released upon ISIS's declaration of a new caliphate from “Allepo to Diyala.” Through the establishment of an Islamic State which embraces and enacts Sunni fundamentalist principles, and which successfully confronts both the West and the regimes currently in power throughout the Islamic world, ISIS offers the opportunity for honor and esteem, while its adversaries (cast as apostates and infidels) are “killed, imprisoned, or defeated.” “The time has come,” the founders of the Islamic State declare, “for those generations that were drowning in oceans of disgrace, being nursed on the milk of humiliation, and being ruled by the vilest of all people, after their long slumber in the darkness of neglect—the time has come for them to rise.” In calling Muslims to come and join the caliphate, the Islamic State offers a utopian vision of a society that offers not just progress but the removal of evil itself (2014). In short, ISIS promotes itself as an emancipatory revolutionary regime. Its practices of government, and its effort to inculcate particular ways of thinking, acting, and living in the populations over which it asserts control, are reminiscent of similar practices deployed by prior emancipatory revolutionary regimes. It is here, in seeking to understand the logic of the Islamic State as a revolutionary regime, and not necessarily in understanding the logic of its violence, that its particular ideological vision plays an important role. Thus, the specific, religiously based, anticolonial, ideological beliefs held by the Islamic State's leadership are what define it as a Sunni Islamist revolutionary regime. Nonetheless, as the final section of this paper will argue, even though specific aspects of its ideology are unique, by reaching into a mythical past to underpin an identity for today, the Islamic State has parallels in other anticolonial movements and continues a line of thinking articulated by Islamist ideologists throughout the twentieth century. The Dialectics of Violence: The Wretched of the Earth are Still Recreating Themselves To this point, I have drawn on Foucault's analysis of discipline and punishment as a lens both for understanding the spectacle of violence associated with ISIS's public executions, as well as for exploring forms of biopolitical control associated with its art of government (one that I suggest is best described as an example of an emancipatory revolutionary regime) within the territory it controlled. I turn here to the work of Frantz Fanon because it is Fanon's analysis of anticolonial struggles that offers the best way to understand the broader violence of ISIS, as well as make sense of its ideological vision within the particular historical moment. Strindberg and Warn (2011) offer a useful template for developing a Fanonian analysis of Islamist politics. Fanon's focus on resistance to European colonialism and, in particular, his analysis of the Cold War in shaping anticolonial struggles, suggests that the current context of Islamist politics is not quite the same as the politics of decolonization in Africa and Southeast Asia in the mid-twentieth century. Yet, there are important similarities that are worth considering, for they help us understand that ISIS is not something entirely new or unprecedented; that its violence reflects a dialectics of anticolonial violence that has shaped so much Middle Eastern and North African politics since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; and that its violence, like the anticolonial violence upon which Fanon focused, is constitutive of identity. It is fair to say that violence is, more broadly, important to many processes of identity formation. From Tilly's (1994) discussion of warfare and the rise of early European nationalisms, to Migdal's (1988) identification of war as useful to the formation of a strong Israeli identity, to Schmitt's (1996) arguments about the importance of existential enemies to politics and the constitution of friends, the relationship of violence to identity formation is not unique to the Islamic State. The argument advanced here is that the Islamic state's violence can be read through a Fanonian lens as part of a broader trajectory of anticolonial identity politics that has developed and shifted but has remained an important part of politics in the Middle East and North Africa since the end of the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, such a reading of ISIS may point to implications for the future of Islamist violence after the military defeat of the Islamic State as a territorial entity. For Fanon, the distinguishing feature of colonialism is a dialectical relationship between the settler and the native. The settler, through a series of ideological constructs, brings about the very identity of the native, and imbues the native with animalistic qualities that serve to justify the settlers’ violent rule. At a certain point, though, the native comes to recognize the settler's construction of him as false. Fanon suggests that the violence of anticolonialism resolves the dialectical relationship between the settler and the native with the creation of a new, shared identity—the rebel. For the native, anticolonial violence “binds [people] together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of a great organism of violence which has surged upward in reaction to the settler's violence in the beginning” (Fanon 1963, 93). In short, violent anticolonial struggle constitutes new political identities. Strindberg and Warn (2011, 56) refer to this peculiar relationship between violence and identity as the Fanonian impulse, which refers to “the psychological impact of insurgence and resistance on the native Self, and the translation of that impact into political currency, tactics, and strategy.” The Fanonian impulse differentiates anticolonial violence from other forms of violence, insofar as “armed resistance not only carries with it the promise of political liberation but constitutes in and of itself the means of psychological emancipation” (Strindberg and Warn 2011, 58). Strindberg and Warn (2011, 55) suggest that Islamist politics in the Middle East and North Africa “are at root anti-colonial liberation struggles.” Islamist politics, as such, represents a potent opposition to both larger political forces (i.e., the relationship between Western states and the Muslim nation [Strindberg and Warn 2011, 43]) and more local forces (i.e., the different interactions between specific populations and rulers within post-Ottoman states [Strindberg and Warn 2011, 44]). Moreover, they write, “The Manichean world created by the legacy of imperialism and colonialism has profound repercussions for all major Islamist movements, which have emerged as responses to the failed liberation struggles of the leftists and nationalists” (Strindberg and Warn 2011, 51). It is, therefore, impossible not to read the creation of identity within the Islamic State through such a lens. While not confronting the same settler colonialism about which Fanon was writing, in violent struggle against the West, and against the Syrian, Iraqi, (and other Sunni) regimes that it sees as merely doing the bidding of the West, ISIS fosters in its fighters a new identity—perhaps more a new version of the Islamic warrior rather than the rebel.9 The Islamic State, unlike the postcolonial bourgeoisie about which Fanon writes, does not generally seek to enter into the capitalist system, to inherit the previous regime's levers of economic and political power, even while its violence recalls the violence of both past regimes in the Middle East and the actions of external powers in the region.10 On the contrary, ISIS offers what appears to be a more thoroughgoing rejection of ancien régimes. In this sense, as the previous section argued, we might look beyond Fanon, to the literature on revolutionary regimes, in order to understand the nature of ISIS's revolutionary utopianism. Yet, I contend that Fanon's discussion of the demand for a national culture within anticolonial uprisings is relevant for an understanding of ISIS's version of an anticolonial Islamist ideology. For Fanon, the native intellectual seeks to rescue a national culture by going back in history to rehabilitate a civilizational identity that existed before colonialism and which was denied and belittled by colonialism. This effort to recover an authentic precolonial identity is an act of resistance, engaged in by those who “relentlessly determine to renew contact once more with the oldest and most pre-colonial springs of life of their people” (Fanon 1963, 210). What's interesting about this process is both the extent to which it is engaged in with zeal and the ways in which it is an impossible task. Indeed, rather than recovering an authentic past, this process involves the invention of a prior mythic authenticity. It is an invention, which, like other forms of imagining a community, seeks to bring about a collective identity, here, an imagined community specifically designed to resist and present an alternative to colonialism. The distinctive nature of the Islamic State's ideology worth considering here is described by Bunzel as a branch of Jihadi-Salafism. “Jihadi-Salafism,” Bunzel (2015, 7) writes, “is a distinctive ideological movement in Sunni Islam . . . The movement is predicated on an extremist and minoritarian reading of Islamic scripture that is also textually rigorous, deeply rooted in premodern theological tradition, and extensively elaborated by a recognized cadre of religious authorities.” The Islamic State, then, can trace its ideological lineage back to Sunni thinkers ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood's Hasan al-Banna to Saudi Wahhabism and Sayyid Qutb (Bunzel 2015, 7–9). Its central tenets involve a return to a precolonial, purified, conservative enactment of Islamic life that can respond to “Western imperialism and the associated decline of Islam in public life” (Bunzel 2015, 7). The effort to draw from a mythical past to inform a resurgent present identity is perhaps most strikingly evident in the Islamic State's concerted efforts to wipe away state borders because existing states are artificial colonial constructions that divide the ummah, or Islamic community. The declaration of the caliphate, therefore, specifically sought to undo the boarders that have shaped the state system since the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.11 According to Malise Ruthven (2014), the Sykes-Picot agreement features prominently in ISIS thinking because “it stands near the beginning of what many Arabs view as a sequence of Western betrayals spanning from the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in World War I to the establishment of Israel in 1948 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” In its public statements surrounding the declaration of the caliphate, and in symbolic acts of destruction that dismantled the physical infrastructure that once marked state borders between Iraq and Syria, Ruthven (2014) argues that ISIS “is nurtured by the myth of precolonial innocence.” For ISIS, any individual or group who doesn't conform to this conservative vision of Sunni Islam, which is disseminated through education and enforced through public punishments as discussed in the previous sections, represents a betrayal of the religion. Consequently, the Islamic State has liberally applied takfiri doctrine to label nonconformists as unbelievers. This, then, justifies the Islamic State's cleansing of nonbelievers from the territory of the caliphate through the acts of spectacular violence described above. In practice, this has involved confrontation with, and mass killings of, Kurds, Yazidis, and, perhaps most importantly, Shiite Muslims.12 In the end, then, the Islamic State's violence helps to forge a new collective identity premised on the power of Sunni Muslims to remake the Middle East, to rid the region of Western and heretical influences, and to restore the Islamic Middle East to its once great heights. The Importance and Limits of Understanding ISIS My primary interest in this article is to offer an understanding of important elements of the Islamic State's politics. In particular, I have drawn on key analytical and theoretical ideas developed by Foucault and Fanon to present a reading of ISIS's violence, of its type of revolutionary governance, and of its ideology. Throughout, I have had, as my foil, academic and popular accounts of the Islamic State that stress its innovative, unique qualities. Even where such accounts accurately locate ISIS's origins in the debacle that was America's invasion of Iraq in 2003, their emphasis on originality and uniqueness risk propagating Orientalist clash-of-civilization arguments about the nature of Islamist radicalism (Said 1979). If we focus on the Islamic State as a terrorist organization that engages in violence to satiate a lust for death and destruction, we miss the ways in which the rise of the Islamic State is a symptom of problematic state formation dating back to the end of the Ottoman Empire; we miss the ways it is the result of forces resisting neocolonialism; and we miss the way its ideology and violence are, therefore, rational and understandable. The analysis offered here, it should be clear, doesn't make the Islamic State any easier or more difficult to contain or defeat militarily, but it makes it more comprehensible. Indeed, it appears that the military defeat of the Islamic State may be well underway. Yet, the failure to design effective and inclusive political institutions that both promote material opportunity and build stable political identities will likely leave open the opportunity for another innovative form of Islamist radicalism to emerge in its place. Radical Islamist ideologies and practices remain potent forces in a region defined by autocracy, oil politics, economic inequality, and weak state capacity. Acknowledgements The author would like to thank participants of the Columbia University Law and Politics faculty seminar, as well as the editors of this journal and the two reviewers of this article, for insightful and helpful feedback and comments. Where the final paper has improved, it is due to this critical feedback. Footnotes 1 Throughout this paper I use ISIS and the Islamic State interchangeably. While this obfuscates the pre-caliphate from post-caliphate periods, the choice to use both Islamic State and ISIS reflects both usage in popular references and the fact that the logic of violence and would-be state formation animated Islamic State actors across its various names. 2 A nice overview of the growing literature on the Islamic State is provided by Byman (2016). Works that focus primarily on the Islamic State's ideology include Wood (2015) and Bunzel (2015). Works that focus primarily on ISIS violence include Neer and O'Toole (2014) and Friis (2015). Works that focus more comprehensively on the Islamic State's origins, violent practices, and governmental practices, in addition to its ideology, include Stern and Berger (2015); Cronin (2015); Walt (2015); al-Tamimi (2014); Caris and Reynolds (2014); Weiss and Hassan (2015); Haykel (2016). A number of think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for American Progress, have published policy papers focused on confronting ISIS militarily. A good summary of changing military strategy against ISIS is provided by Tilghman (2016). 3 In an earlier essay, Alessandrini (2009, 74) provides a more in-depth argument that Fanon and Foucault are linked “by a shared project of writing a history of the present.” 4 For a useful overview of the attraction of Orientalist explanations for Islamist politics, see, Brasted and Khan (2012). 5 ISIS may appear to engage in extraordinarily brutal forms of violence, but such violence is hardly unique. From death and dismemberment caused by American drone strikes and aerial assaults, to images of children scalded from allied firebombing of cities during World War II, to piles of bodies on road sides and in rivers during the Rwandan genocide, all states and societies have proven themselves capable of the most brutal forms of violence. Moreover, as countless recent studies make clear, sexual violence in warfare is an all-too-common runaway norm (see, for example, Enloe 1990, Leatherman 2011, Sjoberg 2013, and DeLargy 2013). Sexual violence was even an apparently widespread practice by Americans during World War II (Roberts 2013). 6 The Islamic State is the offspring of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which itself was the offspring of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the branch of al Qaeda established by Abu Musab al Zarqawi to resist the US occupation of Iraq. Zarqawi's methods, which often placed him in conflict with key leaders in al Qaeda, involved dramatic violence against Western targets and sectarian violence targeted primarily at Iraq's Shiite population (see, Stern and Berger 2015, 13; Weiss and Hassan 2015, 58–63; and Ibrahim 2015). Reuter (2015) outlines the close connections between former remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and Zarqawi's AQI, which constituted the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. 7 Naji's text also outlines a calculated logic for the gruesome execution of hostages. In a passage that recalls the logic of the spectacle as discussed by Foucault, he writes, “The policy of violence must also be followed such that if the demands are not met, the hostages should be liquidated in a terrifying manner, which will send fear into the hearts of the enemy and his supporters” (Naji 2003, 33). 8 Following Freeden (2006, 14), I see ideologies as “patterned and situated combinations of political concepts that temporarily define our understanding of the political and compete with alternative configurations over political support.” Ideologies, therefore, “are human and social products that bind together views of the world . . . and enable collective action.” Political ideologies provide cognitive maps that help answer questions about who we are, what kind of world we want to live in, and how should we act to achieve that vision. For Freeden, ideological conveyance occurs through more than just discursive practices, it occurs “through sight and non-verbal sound: marches, riots, anthems, uniforms, flags, sirens, the architecture of public institutions, standing when a dignitary enters the room, cartoons … to give a few random instances” (Freeden 2006, 21). Because much explanatory power has been ascribed to ISIS, my focus here is on understanding the way ISIS's state-making practices reveal its ideology. 9 For a more comprehensive analysis of how the violence of ISIS helps constitute collective identity, see Neer and O'Toole (2014). 10 Although it is worth pointing out that the Islamic State has relied, like the states it purports to replace, on the sale of oil for revenue. So, in some sense, it has sought to assume the levers of rentierism. 11 For an English language video that reveals how Sykes-Picot factors into ISIS thinking, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i357G1HuFcI. 12 The Islamic State was not the start of sectarian violence in the region and, indeed, may be an extension of how sectarianism has been playing out in Iraq dating back to the 1970s (if not earlier). Periodic Kurdish protest and armed engagements with the Iraqi state, coupled with Shia protest and armed insurgency, contributed to a great deal of state repression on both fronts (see Tripp 2007). A cruel and collective violence, such as the massive loss of life during the Anfal campaign, previewed the sectarian violence of ISIS. References Adib-Moghaddam Arshin . 2015 . “ No, Professor Walt, ISIS is Not a Revolutionary State .” Muftah (October 22). Accessed October 26, 2015, https://muftah.org/no-professor-walt-isis-is-not-a-revolutionary-state/#.WYSTLBXytqN. 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International Political SociologyOxford University Press

Published: May 23, 2018

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