, Volume 93, Number 5

Matthew Clapperton, David Martin Jones and M. L. R. Smith
This article analyses the way in which the group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Islamic State) manages cultural heritage sites under its control. By drawing on three different cases—Palmyra; Sufi, Shi’a and Sunni heritage sites; and Mosul—it examines the way in which the logic of Islamic State’s iconoclasm might also be considered a strategy. To be considered strategic the contention is that three factors need to prevail: the degradation and delegitimization of the existing societal fabric, the removal of all reference to the previous society, and an attempt to reconstruct society in keeping with a new ideological vision. When these three factors are present and interconnected then iconoclasm as a strategy can be said to be manifest. In the case of Islamic State, this article also seeks to illustrate that its actions may broadly be categorized as either pragmatic or dogmatic, thus creating an inconsistent dichotomy within Islamic State’s rhetoric. The article frames such a dichotomy within the context of a strategic narrative both in order to be able to connect pragmatic Islamic State policy to action and to show that when rigid doctrine clashes with the exceptionality of war an irresolvable paradox is created.

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