Exploring the ‘Experiential Grammar’ of Jihadist Actors: Embodied Subjectivities and Imaginaries in Social Media Communications

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Kevin MCDONALD, Middlesex University London, United Kingdom
One of the most significant dimensions of Jihadist movements involves their ‘experiential grammar’, evident in the primacy of personal experience over organizational structure, a development linked to the importance of social media to these movements. This paper uses such communications to explore the experiential dimensions of contemporary jihadist movements, evident in particular in immersive experiences that both amplify and limit what can be felt.

The focus of this paper is experiences of distant, mediated suffering, where good and evil mutate into purity and impurity, and where jihadism manifests many of the characteristics of racism and hate crime. Here visceral and embodied experience plays a critical role, from the place of humour as an embodied practice of integration, to disgust and the grotesque.

This paper considers theoretical challenges emerging from such practices, in particular the importance of new approaches to embodiment and affect for a sociology of mediated experience. Methodologically, these movements underline the need to move beyond sociology’s traditional reliance on textual and numerical data, and highlight the need to construct research strategies that engage with social media as a sensory medium of embodied actors.