The gendered visuality of terrorism : a bricolage approach

  • Antonia Carlotta Niehuss

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Images are special. They have an exceptional ability to make us believe what we see. They can make us feel something much more immediately and intensely than words can. They can be sent to audiences worldwide instantly without requiring translation. And yet, they are deeply ambiguous, being interpreted in manifold ways. All these properties make images powerful political forces. Terrorism is increasingly communicated about with images, as for example the propaganda pictures by the so-called Islamic State or the photographs of Trump supporters storming the US Capitol illustrate. Indeed, governments and media networks, but also the public and those deemed terrorists, all participate in acts of showing and seeing terrorism nowadays – in creating its visuality. Finally, discourses on terrorism are deeply gendered. They construct individuals, states and terrorist groups in deeply gendered terms. How these discourses are gendered is central to the politics of terrorism – shaping how people understand themselves and others and consequently which policies can be taken. However, feminist research on these discourses has mainly focused on language, often overlooking the powerful images forming part of them. But how can we approach these images, with their unique properties, methodologically? How is the visuality of terrorism gendered, and how does it create the conditions of possibility for the politics of terrorism? In this thesis, drawing on insights from the research on visual politics, I use a methodological bricolage to understand terrorism’s gendered visuality and how it links to politics. Specifically, I apply my bricolage to two very different cases of contemporary terrorism, the so-called Islamic State and the 2021 US Capitol storming. Doing so, I uncover the gendered identities and power relations forming a wider gendered Self and Other constructed in their visualities, and how these gendered visualities create the conditions of possibility for the politics of terrorism.
Date of Award13 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorFaye Donnelly (Supervisor) & Caron Eileen Gentry (Supervisor)


  • Gender
  • Terrorism
  • Visuality
  • Power of images
  • Islamic State
  • US Capitol storming

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 30th January 2028

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