Civilian-led counterterrorism and the carceral state in contemporary French film

Fraser McQueen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In recent years, the French state has increasingly promoted a model of counterterrorism in which the state outsources responsibility for counterterrorism duties to individual citizens. This model frames such duties as a civic responsibility to be performed by all. Working in conjunction with a vision of jihadi radicalisation borrowing from anthropologist Dounia Bouzar’s understanding of the phenomenon as a ‘dérive sectaire’, this discourse has individualised responsibility for counterterrorism on two levels. Firstly, guilt is individualised: France’s responsibility in creating its own so-called ‘home-grown’ jihadis is obscured, with radicalisation instead framed as entirely down to the cultish influence that malevolent recruiters exercise over vulnerable recruits. Secondly, responsibility for ‘deradicalisation’ is also individualised: citizens are held individually responsible for this work, with the state’s role reduced purely to its carceral functions. This article argues that two recent films depicting young women being ‘radicalised’, Ne m’abandonne pas (Durringer 2016) and Le Ciel attendra (Mention-Schaar 2016), reproduce this highly neoliberal vision of counterterrorism. This is particularly problematic given that both directors framed their films as didactic interventions educating viewers about the ‘realities’ of jihadi radicalisation: a framing widely accepted by reviewers and state representatives, including then Minister for National Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-242
Number of pages24
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Issue number2
Early online date13 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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