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

Abstract

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.

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    By 2016, Saudi Arabia, the only remaining Muslim country using Hijri Calendar in government, adopted the Gregorian Calendar (Al-Araby 2016).

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El Damanhoury, K. Constructing place identity: ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s branding competition over the Caliphate. Place Brand Public Dipl 16, 265–278 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-019-00155-1

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Keywords

  • Place branding
  • Caliphate
  • ISIS
  • Al-Qaeda
  • Visual identity
  • Governance