The Osama Bin Laden Audiotape Library: Echoes of Legality


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships


Religious Studies


In the winter of 2002, over fifteen-hundred audiotapes from Osama Bin Laden’s former house in Qandahar, Afghanistan were acquired by Cable News Network. This project traces the kinds of interpretive steps made by speakers in the collection to channel legal discourses toward a more disparate and accessible range of ethical frameworks than has commonly been available to Muslim activists. This study complements scholarship on the legal shortcomings of militant discourse while moving more deeply to consider the cultural and epistemological foundations of legal precepts. Portions on martyrdom, theology, poetry, play, and audiotapes treat readers to translations of selected recordings accompanied by a discussion of interpretive tools that allow speakers to tap into, but also diverge, from established fields of legality.