Religion, the State and Violence

Start of project: November 2015

The research project focuses on the institutionalization of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS or Daesh) and addresses the "state-building" process it is currently pursuing as state mimicry. The study aims to develop explanations for its apparent success and its sources.
The project is built on an analytically rather daring decision: to take Daesh’s claim seriously—at least in analytical terms—that it is an emerging, if not legitimate, state. Leaving aside for now the necessary objections any social scientist must raise against this bold move, the project’s major intention is to establish an analytical approach to the theoretically and empirically slippery construct that is the Islamic State today.

If the Islamic State is considered a state, the decisions, institutions, and representations of IS can be dealt with based on theories about and even requirements for the modern nation-state. This permits the application of specific concepts and methods of analysis developed with regard to the nation-state, thus opening the door to a new and at the same time frightening perspective on the territorial expansion of this jihadist and terrorist group. This perspective, which grasps IS expansion as a process of “state and nation building”, draws on a conceptualization originally developed to describe incomplete processes of the “emergence” of states. Based on this methodology, the analysis focuses on three analytical categories identified as being the most decisive, namely, religion, violence and identity, and on how they interrelate within the process of the formation of Daesh as a state mimicry.