PhD (Internal) – University of Copenhagen

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Simone Molin Friis

Simone Molin Friis

PhD fellow

My research examines the relationship between political violence, power and visual politics, focusing on the war against the Islamic State. More specific, my research interests include: 1) execution videos, 2) Islamic State’s visual communication and media, 3) the public display of violence as a political strategy, 4) propaganda, information warfare and the securitization of visual media, and 5) the role of imagery in contemporary security politics.

Supervisor: Professor Lene Hansen


‘Terror, Violence, Imagery: Exploring the Role of Staged Violence, Terrorist Spectacles and Visual Propaganda during the War against the Islamic State'

My PhD project examines the public display of violence, focusing on the war against the Islamic State. The project explores how the Islamic State mobilized the public display of transgressive violence as a political strategy, and how the “spectacle of violence” created by the group came to shape western security politics. Thus, the overall research question of this thesis is: How can we understand the Islamic State’s public display of violence and its political effects in western societies? 

Related to this overall theme, the thesis engages—and is structured by—four sub-questions:

1) What role did the Islamic State’s public display of violence play in western security politics?

2) How can we understand the Islamic State’s public display of violence as a political strategy?

3) How can a genealogical perspective on the public display of violence help us understand the impact of the Islamic State’s violence in the West?

4) What does the case of the Islamic State tell us about the way in which new forms of mediation and visual strategies are transforming the role of violence and its public visibility in the West?


I have written an article on the role of the Islamic State’s beheading videos in the United Kingdom and the United States (published in International Affairs):

I have written a chapter on the Islamic State's use of media and execution videos, published in the Danish edited volume from DIIS, 'Splittelsen i Global Jihad', edited by Manni Crone.

Funding and Affiliation

I am a part of the International Relations group at the Department of Political Science.

My research activities are part of the project “Images and International Security” led by Professor Lene Hansen. Images and International Security was launched in 2014 and is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research. The project is devoted to building new theory and empirical insights on why and how images influence international relations (for more information see

I am affiliated with Centre for Advanced Security Theory (CAST).


Visuelle Mediers betydning for krig og konflikt (Autumn 2015): 

The Syrian conflict: Emergent security phenomena and analytical approaches (Summer 2017, with Maja Greenwood): 


Member of the editorial board of Tidsskriftet Politik and New Perspectives. 


Primary fields of research

  • International Relations and Security Studies.
  • Islamic State (media, videos, communication)
  • Execution videos and beheading videos.
  • Terror and spectacular violence.
  • Political violence, imagery and visibility.
  • The Islamic State, The War on Terror, and the Syrian conflict.
  • Modern warfare and contemporary media.

ID: 122745453