Discursive Psychology vs Foucauldian Discourse Analysis


Hi! One aspect of my MSc thesis is conducting qualitative research on ISIS' propaganda magazines. I want to see how the constructions of jihad and ISIS change over time in the magazines. According to Willig, one of the differences between the two approaches is the degree of agency the subject has (whether it is active or passive). In this case, my main object - ISIS - is most definitely active in that they are the creators of the magazine and thus control the representations made. As such, I feel like discursive psychology is the more appropriate approach. However, I'm also interested in looking at how constructions of ISIS being powerful change across the issues, making me think that a foucauldian approach would be appropriate.

I'm more clear on how to go about conducting an FDA as opposed to discursive psychology. If the latter is the better way to go, are there any clear, structured sources you can recommend? Would it be possible to use some sort of a blended approach?


Discursive constructions in ISIS multilingual materials is my area of expertise, actually. Good to find a fellow nerd on the subject, as not everyone wants to tackle this topic! Regarding which method, it is really up to you as long as you are comfortable with a certain method as well as being able to fend off critiques using it. I use a critical discourse analysis approach, because that is what I'm trained in. I never really explicitly state a framework that I use, I just try to develop the strong themes in the discourse and how they develop, so I also blend in narrative analysis. (I don't do discursive psychology). Critical approaches work for me as I found the discourse in the range of materials is very reflexive, often responding to wider socio-political issues to legitimise their arguments. This ranges from black lives matter (racial integration in the caliphate), from framing legitimate state leaders as hypocritical, being a wage slave (caliphate is socialist), and just the basic message of make your life meaningful. Of course, we all know this is utter rubbish in real life, but the reflexive characteristics of the discourse are very much overlooked in terrorism studies, especially traditional streams like Hoffman, Neumann, etc. Media and terrorism discipline's tenancy to focus on violence (which is not a dominating feature in the materials actually) and Islamic scripture makes it a ripe time for your angle of agency. Very interesting! If you're more clear on FDA, you should go with it.

If you haven't already, take a look through the websites of Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Critical Studies on Terrorism to see what the trend is in analysing discourse and see where your study fits in. Media and Conflict also has some articles which analyse IS discourse, usually Dabiq.

Hope that's helpful!