Examining Agency in the News: A content analysis of Swedish media's portrayal of Western women joining Daesh
Gunnarsson Herlitz, A.K.H.
MetadataShow full item record
The number of Western Muslims travelling to Iraq and Syria to join Daesh is unprecedented and the profile of this group differs from the norm in terms of a higher proportion of women. Though women as a gender, and Muslim women in particular, are often assumed to be victims and passive agents, it is clear that they have played important roles in a number of contemporary violent extremist groups. This thesis seeks to explore the claim that mass media typically depicts female terrorists as interlopers in the male domain that is terrorism, and therefore form a misrepresentation of the current reality, by looking at the case of Swedish media’s portrayal of Western women joining Daesh. With the help of post-colonial theories drawing on concepts of Orientalism and infantilisation, and feminist theories on agency with regard to women participating in political violence, the aim of this thesis is to contribute to knowledge regarding Western Muslim women’s agency, in their decision to join Daesh, and its representation in Swedish media. This thesis argues that Swedish media portrayal of Western women joining Daesh both recognises and denies the agency of these women. Their agency is recognised in terms of their free will and motivations, but is problematic in the victimisation of these women in an infantilising manner. In seeking to define agency with regard to female participation in political violence, this thesis concludes that the agency of women participating in political violence can best be defined as the recognition of these women’s political motivations, and not just their personal motivations, as well as the view of these women as active and independent actors, as opposed to victims of their culture or religion.