Social Imaginaries

Volume 5, Issue 2, Autumn 2019

Farhad Khosrokhavar
Pages 75-104

Western Imaginary of Jihadism

Western jihadism is a complex phenomenon in which the imaginary dimension, the subjectivity of the actors linked to their socio-economic condition but also to their ethnicity, and beyond that, what I call their subjectivation (the ability to empower oneself as a social actor), play a significant role. In Europe, among the Muslim offshoots of migrant workers, most of the psychological developments associated with Jihadism occurs in very specific urban structures, the poor districts or suburbs, where a high concentration of urban poor live with a burden of social stigma linked to the high criminality rate. These settings are often de facto ghettoes. The development of a specific urban imagination often gives meaning to the jihadist commitment among young people living in this type of settlement. This imaginary often feeds on a feeling of stigmatization among these people. Jihadism is not a quest for meaning, but its discovery, the wielding of it through embracing death and inflicting it on the ‘infidels’. It is, in another way, a punishment of society, an act of vengeance against it, be it due to personal reasons (mainly for the young downtrodden of the immigrant origin who feel stigmatized by the society) or due to the lack of ideal, utopia and social justice in society (the case of the young middle class people). This study aims at underlining the fact that social imaginaries should be at the root of socio-anthropological analysis and without understanding the meaning of social action, quantitative views give us at best a unilateral, at most a distorted view of social action and social behavior.