Islamizing Revel Governance: The Shari'a Poltics and Symbolic Power of Jihadi Insurgencies

04 Apr 2022


The territorial governance projects of Islamist rebel groups, like those of non-Muslim rebels, include a wide range of activities including the distribution of food and material aid, implementation of a system of law and order, mediation of civil disputes, and construction and agricultural projects. As part of their proto-state governance projects, Islamist rebels construct and deploy symbols and symbolic repertoires that advance the group’s claim to symbolic sovereignty and legitimate sociopolitical authority in a systematized language that is meant to resonate more deeply with local audiences than a naked display of insurgent power or a system of exchange based on material incentives alone. Symbolic repertoires and the use of symbolic power allow Islamist rebel rulers to advance their governance ambitions and claims of legitimacy within a defined narrative frame, imbuing them with added historical and religious legitimacy through the inclusion of specific symbols and performance of specific rituals such as congregational prayers, communal religious festivals, reconstructing local education systems, and couching insurgent shariʿa-based ‘justice’ within a theological as well as legal framework. This guest lecture considers Islamist rebel governance and its use of symbols and symbolic power as a form of soft power.

Dr. Christopher Anzalone is Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies Marine Corps University Krulak Center and an Adjunct Professor of History and Government at George Mason University. Formerly he was a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies from 2019-2021 and a Research Fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Event Date: 
Monday, April 4, 2022 - 2:00pm to 6:00pm