Quartz Publishes Professor's Opinion Piece on ISIL Videos

September 2, 2015
Drawing of a hand opening a laptop. A pool of red, suggesting blood, seeps out of the screen

August 19 marked one year since the video capturing the execution of the American journalist James Foley was posted to YouTube by the group known as ISIL. Roxanne Euben, Ralph Emerson and Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of Political Science, penned an opinion piece examining the careful arrangement, scripting, and performance of violence at the core of the videos. Her piece, titled “ISIL and the armchair Islamist: How execution videos sell a fantasy of masculinity,” was published by Quartz last month.

Euben wrote that although much has been said of the videos’ intent to “sow terror” among enemies of Islam and recruit new fighters, little is understood about how the videos work and why ISIL made them. She wrote, “Each of these videos is much more than just a record of a violent death. They are performances of violence deliberately scripted to humiliate the victims.”

According to Euben, it is important not only to mark the moment that ISIS/ISIL's brutal beheadings of Americans was witnessed around the world, but also to reflect on "the enormity of the violence and suffering that still remains invisible to many Europeans and Americans.”

“The people who are most often brutalized and killed by the Islamic State are other Muslims and Arabs. For example, there was a video depicting the collective execution of Syrians by ISIS/ISIL fighters, and another that captured the killing of a group of Ethiopian Christians. So while these execution videos of Americans made ISIS/ISIL a household name, in many ways that is because the deaths of non-Westerners don’t become as publicly grievable in the Euro-American world," said Euben. 

Read the entire piece on Quartz.