The rhetoric of heroism pervades politics. Political leaders invoke their own heroic credentials, soldiers are celebrated at sporting events, ordinary citizens become state symbols (or symbols of opposition), and high profile celebrities embody a glamorized, humanitarian heroism.

Using analytical tools drawn from international relations, gender studies, war studies, history, and comparative politics, this book examines the cultural and political phenomenon of heroism and its relationship to the process of creating, sustaining and challenging political communities. Arguing that heroism is socially constructed and relational, the contributors demonstrate that heroes and heroic narratives always serve particular interests in the ways that they create and uphold certain images of states and other political communities.

Studying the heroes that have been sanctioned by a community tells us important things about that community, including how it sees itself, its values and its pressing needs at a particular moment. Conversely, understanding those who are presented in opposition to heroes (victims, demonized opponents), or who become the heroes of resistance movements, can also tell us a great deal about the politics of a state or a regime. Heroes are at once the institutionalization of political power, and yet amorphous--one can go from being a hero to a villain in short order.

This book will appeal to scholars and students working on topics related to international relations, gender, security and war studies, comparative politics, state building, and political communities.

chapter |20 pages


ByVeronica Kitchen, Jennifer G. Mathers

chapter 1|15 pages

Heroism and the construction of political community

ByVeronica Kitchen

chapter 2|24 pages

Medals and American heroic military masculinity after 9/11

ByJennifer G. Mathers

chapter 3|21 pages

Everyday heroics

Motivating masculine protection in the private security industry
ByKevin Partridge

chapter 4|20 pages

Rousseau, the general will, and heroism in drag

Waltz with Bashir as excessive Israeli heroism 1
ByMatthew Evans

chapter 5|21 pages

Excursions into marginality

Digitalised memories of militarised masculinity in Rhodesian understandings of self
ByAne M. Ø. Kirkegaard

chapter 6|25 pages

Unsung heroism?

Showbusiness and social action in Britain’s military wives choir(s)
ByCatherine Baker

chapter 7|22 pages

Bringing hyper-empowered individuals back into global affairs

The contested terrain between celebrity, hero, and anti-hero status
ByAndrew F. Cooper

chapter 8|26 pages

Havel and Mandela

Leadership and legitimacy at home and abroad 1
ByBarbara J. Falk

chapter 9|18 pages

One of the good ones

Celebrity heroism and ending sexual violence in armed conflict
ByMegan Daigle

chapter |14 pages


Why does global politics need heroes?
ByJennifer G. Mathers, Veronica Kitchen