Graham Dawson’s Soldier Heroes: An Overlooked Classic of Psychosocial Studies

Redman, Peter (2022). Graham Dawson’s Soldier Heroes: An Overlooked Classic of Psychosocial Studies. In: Frosh, Stephen; Vyrgioti, Marita and Walsh, Julie eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.



Graham Dawson’s (1994) Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities (Routledge, 1994) is not well known in psychosocial studies. It is, however, a deeply psychosocial work. The product of “Birmingham school” cultural analysis, the book describes and seeks to theorize the “cultural imaginary” of British imperialism as manifested in military adventure narratives. The interest of this account for psychosocial studies lies in the attention paid to the social, historical, and psychic dimensions of those narratives. Tracing the production, circulation, and consumption of these forms from the nineteenth century onwards, Dawson shows how they are, at once, dependent on socially available resources and shot through with unconscious investments. In so doing, he identifies the cultural imaginary as simultaneously collective and subjective – as something in which the social and psychic are inseparably entwined or “abstract levels of a single process” (p. 51). In this chapter, I explore Soldier Heroes in detail and, although not uncritical of some of its arguments, make a case for it as an overlooked classic of psychosocial analysis.

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