The projectilic image: Islamic State’s digital visual warfare and global networked affect

Marwan M. Kraidy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Islamic State’s (IS) image-warfare presents an auspicious opportunity to grasp the growing role of digital images in emerging configurations of global conflict. To understand IS’ image-warfare, this article explores the central role of digital images in the group’s war spectacle and identifies a key modality of this new kind of warfare: global networked affect. To this end, the analysis focuses on three primary sources: two Arabic-language IS books, Management of Savagery (2004) and O’ Media Worker, You Are a Mujahid!, 2nd Edition (2016), and a video, Healing the Believers’ Chests (2015), featuring the spectacular burning of a Jordanian air force pilot captured by IS. It uses the method of ‘iconology’ within a case-study approach. I analyze IS’ doctrine of image-warfare explained in the two books and, in turn, examine how this doctrine is executed in IS video production, conceptualizing digital video as a specific permutation of moving digital images uniquely able to enact, and via repetition, to maintain, visual and narrative tension between movement and stillness, speed and slowness, that diffuses global network affect. Using a theoretical framework combining spectacle, new media phenomenology, and affect theory, the article concludes that global networked affect is projectilic, mimicking fast, lethal, penetrative objects. IS visual warfare, I argue, is best understood through the notion of the ‘projectilic image’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1209
Number of pages16
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • digital image
  • digital video
  • global networked affect
  • ISIL
  • ISIS
  • Islamic State
  • operative image
  • projectilic image
  • spectacle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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