Constructing place identity: ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s branding competition over the Caliphate

  • Kareem El DamanhouryEmail author
Original Article


With the rise of global actors declaring statehood, the place branding competition has expanded beyond internationally recognized cities and nations. ISIS and al-Qaeda insist the establishment of the Caliphate defined both as a place and identity is paramount to reuniting Muslims under a supranational Islamic government. This study explores how each group presents the Caliphate as a place brand and identity construct in the online environment. Using a mixed-methods approach, the study investigates the discursive formation of place identity in ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Arabic-language newsletters and examines the projections of Caliphate governance in over 3200 images. Using names, slogans, logos, and colours, ISIS targeted a niche Arab Muslim readership with contextual messages in al-Naba’ newsletter, while AQAP presented al-Masra as an Islamic, mainstream publication reinforcing the stated goal of liberating Jerusalem. The discursive strategies in al-Naba’ and al-Masra visuals further positioned ISIS as a self-governing Caliphate and AQAP as one of many sister brands with some capacity to govern. The study discusses the overlaps and distinctions between place and proto-state branding strategies and highlights the communicative threats the latter poses to cities and nations’ branding efforts worldwide.


Place branding Caliphate ISIS Al-Qaeda Visual identity Governance 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Media, Film & Journalism Studies DepartmentUniversity of DenverDenverUSA

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