[New publication] Interpreting Insurrectionary Corpora: Qualitative-Quantitative Analysis of Clandestine Communiqués

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the release of a new journal article. This article appears in the Journal for the Study of Radicalism, and I am happy to say constitutes the first ‘in print’ piece from my doctoral research project.


Interpreting Insurrectionary Corpora: Qualitative-Quantitative Analysis of Clandestine Communiqués


Anyone who has written a scholarly work spanning hundreds and hundreds of pages knows the feeling of a successful extraction, remixing, canibalization……call it what you want

if you’re feeling confused over this idea then we’re in different fields. For many of us–overworked, overcommitted, under-slept–we ensure that we keep ahead of our most immediate deadlines, and once we’ve turned in project #1, we start imagining how we can turn some of that effort into projects 1B, 1C and so on. This is especially true of the doctoral dissertation as in its hardbound, library archive form, it largely constitutes an object in obscurity resigned to a future of inactivity. So typically, after we turn something in ‘for credit’ we start chopping it up and polishing the individual pieces.

This is the first of these polished treasures; a journal article exploring a small portion of the linguistics component of my dissertation which was removed from the book manuscript to save space.

This article explores how one can use textual analysis–in the form of corpus linguistics and a customized qualitative content sorting–to understand discourse and ideology of social movements through their communiques. I propose that social scientists studying political violence, social protest, terrorism and the like should expand this manner of analysis, and increase the study of non-state actor ephemera beyond the venue of security.


In other words, while there are dozens of articles exploring how the Islamic State utilized Telegram or Twitter to report on attacks, or how al-Qaeda uses Inspire Magazine to compel lone wolves, there is scant analysis of the troves of communiqués and other materials produces by social movements and militant advocates of social change. From the lengthy justifications for homicide offered by anti-abortion militants from the Army of God, to similar-sounding justifications to kill scientists from Mexican (self-labeled) ‘eco-extremists’, these texts often remain unexamined and discounted because their authors chose a form of political action seen as anti-social rejectionism.

MY proposition is the following: just because an actor decides to pursue their social or political change through ‘violence’ (loosely defined), does NOT mean that their justification, theory, critique and worldview is not instructive to our own understanding. Why do ‘they’ hate ‘us’? Typically, you need only read the communiqué for an explanation.cyber-criminal-or-terrorist

I have been making this point since I read my first bin Laden statements in 2000, and while the idea has been slow to catch on, I feel a shift is coming as more and more English-language jihadi materials become the focus of popular press and academic discussion.

I invite you to read this piece and to consider the applicability to your own work. While the article outlines two methods of linguistic and discursive analysis, the broader approach can be used to deduce and examine ideological tendencies embedded in any manner of text.

In a longer term, I would love to put together an edited volume collecting discursive, ideological and linguistics examinations of social movement ephemera; so if you’re in a proposal collaborating mood, let a guy know.


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