Jihadi Kitsch: The Promesse de Bonheur of Islamist Terrorism
Mehmet Ümit Necef
Henriette Frees Esholdt
Summary, in English
Elaborating on conceptualizations of kitsch in the realm of art and sociology in the context of ISIS propaganda and culture, this article introduces the concept of jihadi kitsch. Kitsch is characterized by a compulsion to escape from the banality of daily reality and lack of coherent meaning in modern society through, in the words of the philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno, a self-made and futile promesse de bonheur, i.e. promise of happiness. The article explicates and illustrates seven distinct aspects of jihadi kitsch: (1) escape from daily life, (2) eroticization of power and “pornokitsch,” (3) “kitsch of death”: romanticized and trivialized violence and death, (4) purity and filth, (5) moral collapse, (6) simplism: an easily accessible worldview, (7) nostalgia: looking back with longing to an authentic past. Capturing the kitsch aspect of jihadi propaganda and culture, the article contributes a new theoretical approach to the existing literature discussing the attractions of jihadism, and ends with a discussion on how the concept of jihadi kitsch can potentially contribute to combating Islamist terrorism through humor.