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Aaron Anfinson

The Treachery of Images:

visualising 'statehood' as a tactic

for the legitimisation of non-state actors 

Published in Terrorism and Political Violence

Advanced online copy

State-building narratives were one of the most powerful motivations for migration to the fastest-growing terrorist organisation in history. Over 40,000 citizens from more than 100 countries migrated to the territory controlled by the Islamic State. This article provides insight into how digital imaging technologies fuelled the escalation and attempted legitimacy of the Islamic State project. 

Offering the first analysis comparing visual elements of propaganda to the UN definition of statehood, Anfinson provides a unique understanding of the contemporary tactics of violent non-state actors. He details an innovative methodology for studying global visual politics, demonstrating how understanding the role of photography is fundamental to countering the escalation of violent terrorist organizations and the attempted legitimacy of contemporary violence.



The Islamic State project conscripted the wider social meaning ascribed to digital photography in order to ‘prove’ the existence of a flourishing state project. 

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Read the full article at

 Terrorism and Political Violence

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