On the Pursuit of Islamic Statehood

How the Salafi-Jihadist ideological goal of Islamic statehood results in practical-the-ground governance

In 2014, the Islamic State group established a Caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Many observers hailed this attempt at state-building as a new era of Jihad, focussed on local bureaucratic control, and thus radically different from the global terrorism of Al-Qaida. However, the vision to establish an Islamic state is in fact deeply engrained in Salafi-Jihadist ideology, and there have been multiple, though under- researched, attempts to establish one. Literature on state-building by armed groups, on the other hand, has equally rarely paid attention to these religiously inspired attempts. The goal of this project is to fill in these academic blind spots on Salafi-Jihadist state-building by combining two separate fields of research (Salafist literature and armed group-literature) and their respective theoretical and methodological frameworks. This approach allows for both a deeper understanding of the global ideology behind Islamic statehood, as well as the practical effects of this statehood. Using Social Movement Theory, Salafi-Jihadism will be analysed as a social movement that uses Jihad as a means for radical political contention. The project will investigate how this contention resulted in actual governance in the western Sahel region, not by studying the formal elements of statehood, but by looking at the relationship with the population. Specifically, how registers of governmentality are mobilised to consolidate control over people, territory and resources.

  • Funded by: FWO (2020-2024)
  • Contact: Marte Beldé
  • Staff involved: Marte Beldé, Koen Vlassenroot, Sami Zemni (MENARG)