Terrorism as Ritual Process and Cultural Trauma: a Performative Analysis of ISIS’s Attacks in Europe

Vincenzo Romania, Serena Tozzo


Social sciences studied terrorism focussing mainly on causes, processes of recruitment, relationships with media and new media, propaganda. At the same time, Italian and European public opinion gave voice almost exclusively to military, political and economic analysis. Sociological reflection on Islamist terrorism focussed itself almost exclusively on the religious aspect of radicalisation of Islam, spending little efforts to widen the analytic perspective to the effects of ISIS actions on the (re)definition of the identity and the collective memory of the targeted nation. This article will offer a different point of view, providing a cultural sociological reading of Paris Attacks, aimed at understanding its performative aspects. We will approach Paris Attacks as an example of social drama (Turner, 1982) and will focus on the ritual efforts spent by France to manage, repair and define the cultural trauma (Alexander et al., 2004) deriving from the attacks. Data will consist of a performative analysis of ISIS’s strategy in Europe and of the counter-terrorist demonstration held in Paris on the 9th of January 2015; and of a frame analysis of the speech pronounced by Francois Hollande on November 16th 2015, after the Paris attacks, and of all the articles published on the main French newspapers during the first week after the events. In the conclusions, we will discuss how those events help to conceive a new kind of cultural trauma that is typical of the age of weak events and of distrust in public institutions.


cultural trauma, frame analysis, terrorism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13136/isr.v7i2.177

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