‘Mamie Djihad’ and ‘The White Widow’: Constructing French and British national identities in terrorist times of crisis

Ariane Bogain*, Leonie Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Downloads (Pure)


This article considers the media representation of two women who left the West for Islamic State (IS) in the mid-2010s: Christine Rivière, nicknamed ‘Mamie Djihad’ (Granny Jihad), from France, and Sally Jones, known as ‘The White Widow,’ from Britain. Both were white, middle-aged mothers, born and raised in their respective countries, who converted late in life and left behind established lives and (adult) children to join IS. While much has been written on the migration of Western women to IS territory, scholarship has focused on younger women and girls who have largely been represented as groomed and vulnerable to IS propaganda. These two ‘unlikely jihadists’ profoundly unsettled understandings of who was at risk of radicalisation. More troublingly, their defections could potentially be read as statements on the superiority of IS vis-à-vis the West. Using a Critical Discourse Analysis of leading French and British news media, the article demonstrates how both women were represented as always-already outside their respective nations through intersectional narratives that constructed them as abject inside Others. These worked to reassert French and British national identity and suture the ideological rupture caused by these women, who were at first glance typically French/British, by demonstrating that they had actually always been on the margins of the national community and had always been dangerous to the nation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Early online date27 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2024

Cite this