Violence and Heroism

  • Version 1.0
  • published 8 September 2022

1. Subject matter

In many of its facets, the phenomenon of violence is present in numerous hero narratives: the trial in battle and war for instance can constitute the point of departure for ⟶heroization processes; protecting the defenceless against the violence of others can be told in concepts and narratives of heroism; using one’s own body when faced with the threat of expected violence can be rewarded with hero status. Violence, understood as the wilful damaging of the body of another against that individual’s will, is admittedly not a constitutive condition for heroization processes, but it often accompanies them. The willingness to deliberately subject oneself to the violence of others, to endure it passively or to confront it actively is equally a prominent reason for construction processes of the heroic.1This chapter is due in large part to the discussions and stimulating conversations that took place at the Sonderforschungsbereich 948 “Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms”, particularly in the joint working group on ‘violence’. Many of the considerations made in this article have been published in the introduction to our collected volume Gewalt und Heldentum in German. Cf. Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia: “Das Heroische und die Gewalt: Überlegungen zur Heroisierung der Gewalttat, ihres Ertragens und ihrer Vermeidung”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 9-29.

There is no inherent ontological bond between violence and heroism; however, owing to specific similarities – for instance with regard to their transgressive element, their affective impact, their ambiguous relationship to order and their focus on an identifiable deed – they can be understood as phenomena that are linked to each other through numerous theoretical interfaces. The violence of an action can be veiled as a heroic deed, or the heroic act of establishing a new social system can be accompanied by the violence that Karl Marx describes as “the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.”2Marx, Karl: Capital. A new abridgement. Ed. with an Introduction and Notes by David McLellan. New York 2008: Oxford University Press, 376. Two central lines of thought proceed from this possible connection between violence and heroism: first, both violence and the heroic call for their legitimation and often find it in references to each other. The heroic thus joins the concepts of ‘violence’ and ‘legitimacy’ and forms with them a tense web of interrelation in which questions as to the reciprocal dependence of the phenomena should be asked. Second, attention can be focused on those involved in violence – perpetrator, victim and audience – and the questions addressed: which agents are heroized; who is doing the heroizing; for which conduct is heroizing happening and which agents can be heroized at all? This also takes into account the observation that heroization processes and experiences of violence are to be understood as historically and culturally contingent phenomena and that a vast number of violent and heroic situations are thus conceivable.

2. The concept of violence

With reference to “the connection commonly made between power and violence”3Imbusch, Peter: “The Concept of Violence”. In: Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Hagan, John (Eds.): International Handbook of Violence Research. Dordrecht 2003: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 13-39, 15. Cf. also ibid., 18: “Violence as calculated force is a way of exercising power, and it is a very effective instrument of power because it enforces obedience directly and overcomes resistance. Conversely, one will obviously have to concede that not all power is of violent character.”, the concept of violence must be delimited and a definition focused on ‘physical violence’ must be selected in order to expose the interfaces between violence and heroism.4T. Koloma Beck proposes expanding the narrow concept of violence – which she herself has long used – to include psychological violence. She perceives the limitation to the body as Eurocentric and instead speaks of corporeal experiences of injury and pain. Corporeal means in this context the animate body, i.e. it includes consciousness. In connection with heroism, the experience of pain might be significant for questions of confrontation and therefore for the heroization of those who are willing to subject themselves to the dangers of violence (and to this pain and similar). Cf. Beck, Teresa Koloma: “Gewalt als leibliche Erfahrung. Ein Gespräch mit Teresa Koloma Beck”. In: Mittelweg 36 (2017/3), 52-73, 66. This definition also contrasts with the forms of “structural violence”5Galtung, Johan: “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research”. In: Journal of Peace Research 6.3 (1969), 167-191, 168: “Violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations.” or of “social coercion”‘ – which can be characterised by the threat of physical assault or particular means of enforcing compliance6Imbusch: “The Concept of Violence”, 2003, 18: “Social coercion, by comparison, is aimed at social control of people by people and is therefore identical with a form of exercising power, but not necessarily with violence. Coercion in the strict sense is understood to mean the threat of physical assault or a particular means of enforcing compliance, so this is more a preliminary stage of violence where perceived threat or pressure suffices to achieve particular behavior, and actual violence is not required. However, suppression and coercion in a broader sense also become forms of social compulsion, which Galtung and others have termed structural violence.” – and focuses on its character as a direct power action. Here Heinrich Popitz’ definition of the concept of violence is instructive: he defines violence as “a power action, leading to the intended bodily damaging of others, no matter whether for the actor it finds its meaning in its being carried out (as mere power of action) or, translated into threats, is supposed to establish the durable subjection of the other party (as binding power of action).”7Popitz, Heinrich: Phenomena of Power. Authority, Domination, and Violence. Transl. by Gianfranco Poggi, ed. by Andreas Göttlich and Jochen Dreher. New York 2017: Columbia University Press, 29. Thus, for the context of the heroic, an authoritative concept of violence is one that asks who does what to whom and thereby places individuals not only in the role of subject, but in the role of object as well.8Nummer-Winkler, Gertrude: “Überlegungen zum Gewaltbegriff”. In: Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Soeffner, Hans-Georg (Eds.): Gewalt. Entwicklungen, Strukturen, Analyseprobleme. Frankfurt a. M. 2004: Suhrkamp, 21-61, 21.

By focusing on one specifiable deed – i.e. the corporeal damaging of an individual by another against the former’s will – violence is not only conceptually near the ⟶heroic deed, which is regularly a decisive point of reference for heroization processes, the violent deed also appears to exhibit theoretical similarities to the heuristics of the heroic through its character as “a harming power of action”.9Popitz: Phenomena of Power, 2017, 11. This holds true for instance whenever hero and heroism are debated by way of the terms autonomy and transgressiveness, moral and affective potential, agonality or strong agency (cf. ⟶Constitutive Processes of Heroic Figures).10Schlechtriemen, Tobias: “The Hero as an Effect. Boundary Work in Processes of Heroization”. In: helden. heroes. héros. E-Journal zu Kulturen des Heroischen Special Issue 5 (2019), 17-26. DOI: 10.6094/helden.heroes.heros./2019/APH/03. In particular, the aspect of ⟶transgression, which both the violent and heroic deed can be qualified as, raises the question what symbolic power can a violent deed have for phenomena of the heroic. The manner and even the circumstances of a violent deed can give attributions of the heroic a unique form.

3. Interfaces between violence and heroism

Using a narrow concept of violence, a number of questions on the interplay of violence and heroism can be phrased that help discern the different interfaces between the two phenomena. First, questions aimed at violence itself are productive. Peter Imbusch proposes deducing violence through seven questions: who exercises violence? What happens when violence is exercised? How is violence exercised? Who is violence directed at? For what reasons is violence exercised? What are the objectives in exercising violence? What is the justification behind the exercise of violence?11Imbusch: “The Concept of Violence”, 2003, 20-22. In addition, inquiring into the third party is specific to the construction of the heroic, for, as Jan Philipp Reemtsma finds regarding the violent deed, only through “a connections-creating third party do both aspects, the creation and the destruction of a social relationship, socialisation and desocialisation, become comprehensible as the unity of the violent deed”.12Reemtsma, Jan Philipp: “Die Natur der Gewalt als Problem der Soziologie.” In: Rehberg, Karl-Siegbert (Ed.): Die Natur der Gesellschaft: Verhandlungen des 33. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Kassel 2006. Frankfurt a. M./New York 2008: Campus, 42-64, 56. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “[Durch einen] Bezüge schaffenden Dritten werden beide Aspekte, die Konstituierung und die Destruktion eines sozialen Verhältnisses, Vergesellschaftung und Entgesellschaftung, als Einheit der Gewalttat selbst erfassbar”. Through the third party that relates and confirms the violent deed – as a heroic deed – “the meaningful or perhaps only signal-like connection of that manifestation of violence to its environment”13Reemtsma: “Die Natur der Gewalt als Problem der Soziologie”, 2008, 56. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “die sinn- oder vielleicht nur signalhafte Verbindung dieser Manifestation von Gewalt zu ihrer Umwelt”. becomes socially relevant. Who then are the third parties to violence? How are they involved? Who recounts violence? And above all: how do the third parties connect the questions posed by Imbusch to the heroic? If each of the questions on violence are asked considering the ‘connections-creating third parties’ with an eye to the phenomena of the heroic, then three themes can be identified in which the interfaces between violence and heroism are situated.

3.1. The violent deed and those involved

Who exercises what kind of violence on whom and how? The consolidation of the first four questions focuses on the violent deed itself and those party to it. In connection with violent deeds, the powerful of action who exercise violence are regularly the first to be heroized. These are cases of the classic concurrence of violent deed and heroic deed. This concurrence has been expressed in particular throughout regions and cultures in the warrior ethos, which has been elevated to the trial of masculinity, and finds its historical zenith in the duel. Here, violence appears to be a constitutive prerequisite for the subsequent heroization processes pursued by the ‘connections-creating third parties’ – i.e. communities of admirers and audiences in this case. The question of the heroizableness of the violent deed itself limits this perpetrator-centric perspective. Whether or not a violent deed is heroizable is subject to historical changes; the moral frame of reference in which violence is exercised is contextual, i.e. modifiable, and, accordingly, the heroization options are also conceivable only in the specifically relevant framework, the scopes of violence (‘Räume der Gewalt’, the German meaning implicates spatial, temporal and discursive connotations here), as Jörg Baberowski calls them. He further states:

“Although situations and the possibilities of the scope decide how violence is carried out and suffered, no individual proceeds into a violent situation without presuppositions. The individual always knows what is to be done, for perpetrators and victims, attackers and defenders instinctively fall into established habits that make sense in their cosmos.”14Baberowski, Jörg: Räume der Gewalt. Frankfurt a. M. 2015: S. Fischer, 42. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Zwar entscheiden Situationen und die Möglichkeiten des Raumes darüber, wie Gewalt vollzogen und erlitten wird. Aber kein Mensch begibt sich voraussetzungslos in eine Gewaltsituation. Man weiß immer schon, was zu tun ist, denn Täter und Opfer, Angreifer wie Verteidiger greifen unwillkürlich auf eingespielte Gewohnheiten zurück, die in ihrem Kosmos einen Sinn ergeben.”

This perspective already points to the web of interrelation between violence, legitimacy and heroism to be discussed below. Baberowski not only intimates that there are well-known patterns that convey which forms of violence are heroizable, he also points out a specific feature of the heroic: through the heroic figure’s own role model function, it is possibly the discourses of the heroic themselves in specifically relevant contexts by which the ‘established habits’ are not just recognised, but also defined. The example of the hero (known to those involved) possibly makes certain forms of the use of violence conceivable in the first place or even requires them, for even “knights were afraid, suffered anguish and feared death, but they went into battle because their status obliged them to wield the sword against their enemies”.15Baberowski: “Räume der Gewalt”, 2015, 66. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Ritter hatten Angst, litten Qualen und fürchteten sich vor dem Tod, aber sie zogen in den Kampf, weil ihr Status sie darauf festlegte, das Schwert gegen ihre Feinde zu führen.”

It is also conceivable that certain forms of violence are not or no longer heroizable and that such acts of violence might not fit into the framework of the heroic from the outset (this question is subordinate to the problem of legitimacy). However, this would relate only to the ‘perpetrator’ as a possible heroic figure and not to the perpetrator’s antagonist – in extreme cases, the victim of violence, who can also be heroized (in any case, whenever the term ‘victim’ does not relate exclusively to the processes of attribution through which individuals are classified into this category [cf. ⟶Typological Field of the Heroic], but refers more generally to individuals who have seen themselves subjected to violence or who have consciously exposed themselves to it16Note the critical examination of the impossibility of the victim being heroizable in Goltermann, Svenja: Victims. Perceptions of Suffering and Violence in Modern Europe. Oxford 2022: Oxford University Press.). Opening the questions to the how of violence and the associated at whom leads to not just asking about the perpetrator, but about the relationship between perpetrator and victim. In this sense, the processes of heroization can to the same extent relate to those who expose themselves to violence, be it because they are consequently accorded a heroic victim status – as can be the case in the extreme case of the ⟶martyr17Cf. Gölz, Olmo: “Gemartert, gelächelt, geblutet für alle: Der Märtyrer als Gedächtnisfigur in Iran.” In: Leonhard, Nina / Dimbath, Oliver (Eds.): Gewaltgedächtnisse: Analysen zur Präsenz vergangener Gewalt. Wiesbaden 2021: Springer, 127-150. – be it because the use of one’s own body and ⟶corporeal integrity when faced with the violence of others is heroized – regardless of whether someone is labelled as a victim or the experience of violence is merely pointed out.

The use of one’s own body as the greatest good is decisive for heroization, meaning that the question of the antagonist is detached from the personified opponent and raised to the abstract level of the violence itself – in this respect precisely as the danger for life and limb of its opponent. When journalists for instance are heroized because they place their corporeal integrity on the line ‘for the truth’, this occurs detached from the identifiability of the possible perpetrator. With Baberowski, it could be said that they consciously enter a space open to violence and heroization occurs via the reference to the implicit threat of violence itself. The experience of violence becomes the focus of the heroization processes in these and in other instances (for instance in frontline experiences) and overshadows the act of violence.

3.2. Web of interrelation: legitimacy – violence – heroism

The tense triangle that results from the concepts of legitimacy, violence and heroism is defined by the questions as to the justifications for and reasons why violence is exercised. The question as to violence’s justifications is the one “as to the goals and possible motives of violence, which examines intentions and purposes in search of an explanation”.18Imbusch: “The Concept of Violence”, 2003, 21. In this case, attention is focused on the kind and type of the violent deed itself; it is assessed according to the relevant society’s systems of values and norms. Jan Philipp Reemtsma proposes in his phenomenology of physical violence differentiating between locative, raptive and autotelic violence.19Reemtsma, Jan Philipp: Trust and Violence. An Essay on a Modern Relationship. Transl. by Dominic Bonfiglio. Princeton/Oxford 2012: Princeton University Press, 56. Cf. also ibid., 58: “Locative violence involves a brutal disinterest in the body; raptive and autotelic violence show a brutal interest in the other’s body. The objective of raptive violence is not harm or destruciton (though it can result in harm and destruction), while the object of autotelic violence is harm and destruction (though it can also be sexually motivated).” He points out that different forms of violence require different forms of legitimation depending on the culture.20Reemtsma: Trust and Violence, 2012, 58. Thus, the distinction “between legitimate and illegitimate forms of violence” is derived from superordinate norm systems.21 Imbusch: “The Concept of Violence”, 2003, 19-20.

The question regarding the legitimacy of physical violence will also always be asked because violence, as a power action, intrinsically strives for its own legitimacy. When determining what seems to be conceivable and what appears impossible, which violence seems to be honourable, just or even necessary and which violence regularly seems to be that of the perpetrator but not that of a hero, hero narratives make a decisive contribution. The heroic can serve to elevate specific forms of violence to sacredness, as can be observed for instance in cases of defence of another person, which is celebrated as civil courage (and its omission disparaged as cowardice). Popitz states regarding the connection between legitimation strategies and the heroic: “The legitimation of violence is typically enhanced, heightened by its glorification. The violent action both of an individual and of a collectivity is celebrated as heroic, whether it defends one’s land or it invades a foreign one, whether it turns existent wealth into booty or it annihilates the unfaithful.”22Popitz: Phenomena of Power, 2017, 43.

However, the web of interrelation of legitimacy, violence, and heroism can be understood not just in pointing to the justifications of specific forms of violence as heroic deeds (i.e. heroism in connection with the question as to the justifications of violence). The perspective must also be reversed: through the transgressive character of violence, the question arises as to how the agent of the violence is positioned through the deed in the social space. Reemtsma finds that where violence is required, perpetrators of violence may hope for “the dividends that come with fulfilling one’s duty”, i.e. fame and bravery; where violence is not allowed, perpetrators ”set their own rules” and challenge the culture in which they live.23Reemtsma: “Trust and Violence”, 2012, 70-71: “Every act of violence positions itself vis-à-vis society. Where violence is permitted, there are winners and losers, and the former are usually rewarded, either materially or with social prestige. Where violence is mandated, those who perform violence collect the dividends that come with / fulfilling one’s duty and, when the deed involves risk, earn a reputation for bravery. Where violence is prohibited, those who commit violence set their own rules, challenging the norms of society in addition to making victims scream.” Questions of heroization and demonisation follow here intuitively. Violence also always has a legitimising or delegitimising effect on those who exercise it. Therefore, as regards the agents, the question is also always asked: what are the reasons violence is exercised?

Hence, legitimisation through violence has an inverse relationship with the legitimisation of violence; the question of violence’s justifications and the question of violence’s reasons are intertwined. In the end, the adoration of the agent of violence as a hero at any rate may result from the agent’s violence, just as the violent deed requires the agent’s example to be legitimised in the first place. Deheroization processes can also be conducted alongside the discourses on the violence of the specific agent, be it because the violent deeds are re-evaluated at a later point in time, be it because the violence itself is understood by the ‘connections-creating third party’ as illegitimate. These processes already point to the phenomena of the association of violence and heroism that centre around social order.

3.3. Social order

Imbusch’s question as to the objectives of violence is still unanswered. It directs attention to the intended or unintended consequences of violence. The concept of violence also moves closer to the phenomena of the heroic when order-establishing processes of community formation are examined. According to Popitz, violence is not to be seen merely as “incidents within social relations”, but as “foundations of the structure of human social existence.”24Popitz: Phenomena of Power, 2017, 37. Imbusch also understands violence as a “complex phenomenon involving major ambiguity between the destruction and the creation of order.”25Imbusch: “The Concept of Violence”, 2003, 13. Violence would therefore need to be understood not just as a problem of social relations, but even as a constitutive factor for the formation of communities, for instance whenever it acts as the revolutionary midwife for the implementation of new orders – a position that has also been adopted in particular by Frantz Fanon for the struggle surrounding decolonisation.26Fanon, Frantz: The Wretched of the Earth. New York 2004: Grove, 51-52: “At the individual level, violence is a cleansing force. It rids the colonized of their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude. It emboldens them, and restores their self-confidence. Even if the armed struggle has been symbolic, and even if they have been demobilized by rapid decolonization, the people have time to realize that liberation was the achievement of each and every one and no special merit should go to the leader. Violence hoists the people up to the level of the leader. Hence their aggressive tendency to distrust the system of protocol that young governments are quick to establish. When they have used violence to achieve national liberation, the masses allow nobody to come forward as ‚liberator.’ They prove themselves to be jealous of their achievements and take care not to place their future, their destiny, and the fate of their homeland into the hands of a living god. Totally irresponsible yesterday, today they are bent on understanding everything and determining everything. Enlightened by violence, the people’s consciousness rebels against any pacification. The demagogues, the opportunists and the magicians now have a difficult task. The praxis which pitched them into a desperate man-to-man struggle has given the masses a ravenous taste for the tangible. Any attempt at mystification in the long term becomes virtually impossible.” Hans-Georg Soeffner notes that there is a ‘charisma of violence’ that points to a suggestion of freedom and carries a revolutionary impetus.27Soeffner, Hans-Georg: “Gewalt als Faszinosum”. In: Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Soeffner, Hans-Georg (Eds.): Gewalt. Entwicklungen, Strukturen, Analyseprobleme. Frankfurt a. M. 2004: Suhrkamp, 62-85, 72.

This brings the violence on which new orders are established into proximity with the heroic. On the one hand, the personalisation of remembering heroic actors must inevitably recall their violent acts on which the new order is founded; on the other hand, violence thereby manifests itself as a form of extraordinariness, the exceptional character of which resembles or is even indistinguishable from the fascination of the heroic. Soeffner explains to this effect: “vis-à-vis (everyday) normality, violence emphasises the extraordinary, i.e. the abnormal. Its irrationality evokes extreme emotions.”28Soeffner: “Gewalt als Faszinosum”, 2004, 73. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Gegenüber der Normalität (des Alltags) betont Gewalt das Außeralltägliche, in diesem Sinne Abnormale. Ihre Irrationalität beschwört die extremen Emotionen[.]” Extraordinariness is not merely the “trial of the individual”29Soeffner: “Gewalt als Faszinosum”, 2004, 74. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Bewährung des Individuums”. that is expressed via the charisma of violence and that points out the phenomena of legitimisation through violence (see above). Extraordinariness also points to the exceptional and transgressive essence of both phenomena. Although this essence has an intrinsic order-establishing character, it simultaneously presents both the hero and violence as a problem in the orders.

4. Distinctive aspects

Beyond the theoretical interfaces between violence and heroism presented here, there are even further topics that can be identified in which a thematic conflation of the two phenomena is regularly found. The following is a far from complete rendition of the gender-connoted assessment of violence, in particular as it relates to masculinity configurations, and of hero remembrance in connection with communities’ memory of violence.

4.1. Violence, masculinity and heroism

Throughout eras and spaces, a close connection between violence and notions of masculinity can be observed in the vast number of societies (if not in all of them). On the one hand, male violence is perceived as a problem due to its scale and ubiquity. For instance, it has been found that the vast number of violent crimes worldwide is committed by men and, thus, in particular “the individual and social consequences of violence against women are made politically conspicuous”.30Dackweiler, Regina-Maria / Schäfer, Reinhild: “Gewalt, Macht, Geschlecht – Eine Einführung”. In: Dackweiler, Regina-Maria / Schäfer, Reinhild (Eds.): Gewalt-Verhältnisse. Feministische Perspektiven auf Geschlecht und Gewalt. Frankfurt a. M. 2002: Campus, 9-26, 9. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “die individuellen wie gesellschaftlichen Folgen der Gewalt gegen Frauen [werden] politisch sichtbar”. At the same time, however, violence, as an option for solving hierarchic conflicts primarily – be it in relation to women, other men or competing communities – is constructed as a male prerogative, meaning that an agent for instance who invokes his manliness not only claims to be allowed to thereby legitimise his violence, he also places himself in relation to others. In this sense, Michael Meuser poses the question with respect to Trutz von Trotha’s observation that violence is an Everyman’s resource (“Jedermanns-Ressource”)31von Trotha, Trutz: “Zur Soziologie der Gewalt.” In: von Trotha, Trutz (Ed.): Soziologie der Gewalt. Opladen 1997: Westdeutscher Verlag, 9-56, 18.

“Is it also an ‘Everywoman’s resource’? Considering the differences in the status of female and male violence in the gender order, a relativising addendum – also with regard to this order – must be made, namely that violence is a ‘legitimate’ ‘Everyman’s resource’, but an ‘illegitimate’ ‘Everywoman’s resource’. The gender logic of violence entails the potential of violence being realised predominantly by men. The gender order validates itself in violence relations. Men and women have at their disposal the (power) resource of violence to different degrees.”32Meuser, Michael: “‘Doing Masculinity’ – Zur Geschlechtslogik männlichen Gewalthandelns”. In: Dackweiler, Regina-Maria / Schäfer, Reinhild (Eds.): Gewalt-Verhältnisse. Feministische Perspektiven auf Geschlecht und Gewalt. Frankfurt a. M. 2002: Campus, 53-79, 73. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Ist sie auch eine ‘Jedefrau-Ressource’? Angesichts der skizzierten Unterschiede des Stellenwertes weiblicher und männlicher Gewalt in der Geschlechterordnung muß relativierend – und mit Bezug auf diese Ordnung – ergänzt werden, daß Gewalt eine ‘legitime’ ‘Jedermanns-Ressource’, aber eine ‘illegitime’ ‘Jedefrau-Ressource’ ist. Die Geschlechtslogik von Gewalt hat zur Folge, daß das Potential der Gewalt vorwiegend von Männern realisiert wird. […] Die Geschlechterordnung macht sich in den Gewaltverhältnissen geltend. Männer und Frauen verfügen in unterschiedlichem Maße über die (Macht-)Ressource Gewalt.”

Thus, violence is not just legitimised through the reference to the masculinity of the agent, but the agent’s masculinity is simultaneously demonstrated and confirmed first in relation to his victims and secondly to the ‘connections-creating third parties’. The social creation of masculinity as a point in the relational framework of the gender order is therefore closely associated with practices of violence, their regulation and assessment.33Christensen, Ann-Dorte / Rasmussen, Palle: “War, Violence and Masculinities: Introduction and Perspectives”. In: NORMA. International Journal for Masculinity Studies 3-4.10 (2015), 189-202, 189: “The social constitution and historical development of masculinity are closely linked to violent practices in human relations and to the ‘civilising’ regulation of such practices. Warfare constitutes an important arena for organised violence and as a type of practice almost exclusively undertaken by men it has contributed significantly to the shaping of masculinities embodied with the soldier as the main representation. This means that warfare and military institutions have been important in the making of masculinities and in many contexts militarised masculinity has been a crucial element in hegemonic forms of masculinity.” In the web of interrelation of legitimacy, violence and heroism, in which heroism is legitimised through forms of violence and at the same time heroizations take place via forms of violence perceived as legitimate, heroized violence regularly has a masculine connotation. Via the conflation of violence as a possible course of action with hegemonial forms of masculinity that affirm that possibility, a connection to the heroic thereby explicitly arises.

The phenomenon of masculinely connoted violence therefore appears not just as a hierarchic negotiation process over the normative power of the violent deed itself – a victor triumphs over his victim – instead it also functions within a given community as a factor in legitimisation or delegitimisation and, in the ideal case, as a recognition resource to which anywhere from social validation to heroization (or in the opposite case, demonisation) relates. Ultimately, therefore, the critical question must stand whether a virtually natural connection between heroism and masculinity is constructed via the association of violence and heroism – and the focus on men that accompanies this conflation. Hence, from the outset, legitimately accessing a central resource for heroization processes would be denied or at least made difficult for women – not because they cannot act violently, but because they are not allowed or, to be more precise, it is not expected from them according to this logic. Accordingly, only the role of the victim or of the ‘connections-creating third party’ would be left for women, but not that of the hero – at least not through violence.

In its organised form, violence finds its place in war, i.e. those historical moments that until today appear not only as manly affairs, but have also contributed significantly to the formation of specific masculinities.34Gölz, Olmo: “Martyrdom and Masculinity in Warring Iran: The Karbala Paradigm, the Heroic, and the Personal Dimensions of War”. In: Behemoth 12.1 (2019), 35-51; Christensen / Rasmussen: “War, Violence and Masculinities”, 2015, 189. Leo Braudy states: “Both war and masculinity are ideas shaped by a long interwoven history.”35Braudy, Leo: From Chivalry to Terrorism. War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity. New York 2005: Vintage Books, xvii. The paradigms of hero production have also shown to be endemic in war: here, in the culmination of organised political violence, opportunities to access discourses of the heroic via violence, transgression, agonal success, the exhibition of strong agency, mastering inner hurdles, the encounter with violence as a danger and the possibility of facing this danger present themselves both to the individual and to the collectivity. From the perspective of warring societies, heroisms have their place in war (waged by men); heroes are born on the battlefield. In this respect, it seems that the connection between heroic ideals and militarised masculinities can be found throughout all societies and times: knights and religious warriors, revolutionaries and freedom fighters, elite soldiers and loyal servicemen – i.e. agents of violence36See on the interrelations of militarised masculinities and heroism: Gölz, Olmo: “Der Heroismus der Revolutionsgarden im Iran-Irak-Krieg. Von der Gewaltgemeinschaft zur Avantgarde des Martyriums”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 151-178; Marstaller, Vera: “Zur Erotik des Kriegsversehrten. Nationalsozialistische Maskulinitätsdiskurse im Kontext extremer Gewalterfahrungen”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 103-134; Reichardt, Sven: “Gewaltgemeinschaft und Heldentum in der SA. Beobachtungen zu ihren Zusammenhängen aus praxeologischer Perspektive”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 85-101., to name but a few examples – depending on the historical context not only moulded hegemonial concepts of masculinity, but their examples defined the ⟶heroisms of their time to the same degree.37Cf. Braudy: From Chivalry to Terrorism, 2005, xx: “The fortunes of Western epic heroism are […] particularly tied to war, sometimes in a grand defeat and sometimes in victory, but always triumphs that are inevitably connected to the way war destroys men but makes their memories last.” From the association between violence and heroism, an intrinsic link between masculinity and heroism is to be constructed, via which the access to concepts of the heroic can be made difficult or even denied to women.

However, this connection between heroism and violence to which masculinity seems to be inherent is being debated anew today. Women are fighting (after they had already taken up arms in the early Soviet Union, in the Spanish Civil War and in liberation movements of colonialised countries) more and more in regular armies as soldiers; they are practicing martial arts and are thereby subverting conventional links between violence-inclined heroism and masculinity. On the one hand, (re)presentations of heroes are perpetuating gender-specific assignments of perpetrator and victim roles, of ‘masculine’ strength and ‘feminine’ acquiescence. On the other hand, however, they are also subversively inverting these assignments, particularly in genres of popular culture. As early as the 1940s, comics such as Wonder Woman, and later Amazons Attack!38Cf. Dath, Dietmar: Superhelden. Stuttgart 2016: Reclam, 62-71., Catwoman and films like Kill Bill, have stylised the violent warrior as a superior heroine; some are drawing on familiar gender stereotypes such as the heroically fighting Amazons, the Valkyries or the national heroine Joan of Arc.39Watanabe-O’Kelly, Helen: Beauty or Beast? The Woman Warrior in the German Imagination from the Renaissance to the Present. Oxford 2010: Oxford University Press. From this perspective, the connection between the heroic and male violence, presupposed as a matter of course for many earlier eras, seems to have at least become fragile – however, the cited examples also confirm that female violence is in need of explanation and requires alternative legitimation discourses, meaning that a concept such as ‘gracefulness’ for example can be employed in the context of female violence.40van Marwyck, Mareen: “Anmut als Heroismuskonzeption in der Literatur und Ästhetik um 1800”. Lecture at the conference “Gewalt und Heldentum”, Freiburg 29.11.–01.12.2018.

4.2. Violence, memory of violence and hero remembrance

The affective power of violence compels perpetrators and victims, involved individuals and accessories, contemporaries and posterity to take a stance on and position themselves in relation to a violent deed not only at the moment thereof, but also subsequently when it is remembered. This holds true when violence and heroism coalesce: in social processes of constructing and remembering heroes, there is arguably no indifference towards the violence that they either inflicted on others as fighters for a cause or experienced themselves as the ones who suffer violence.

This does not imply that the violent deed, the struggle or the willingness to make sacrifices for which a hero is extolled by later communities of remembrance are explicitly (re)presented: “bodies are shot at, injured, ripped apart, raped, mutilated, hacked to pieces; bodies can be executed, hanged, decaptivated”.41Stahel, Urs: “Bodies, Pictures, Power, and Violence. Introduction”. In: Stahel, Urs: Darkside II. Photographic Power and Photographed Violence, Disease and Death. Göttingen 2009: Steidl, 8-15, 13. Nothing is necessarily heard, read or seen of all that in representations of the hero and their heroic deed; the speak- and showability rules of the (re)presentation of violence-shaped heroic deeds vary according to time and place. In the Iliad, the history of the hero Achilles, Homer tells of gruesome carnage during the Trojan War in explicit details and in classical Greece of the late 8th century before Christ, battle scenes with piles of corpses are seen on funerary vessels. Accounts of atrocities in classical texts can be understood as negotiations on the boundaries of good and bad violence. They serve primarily the demonisation of the other that is to be ostracised: “In the affects of the reader and of the listener, in the crossing of the individual sensitivity threshold, the rules were imparted that had been socially set and that the author was sharing and wanted to impart. Aim and outcome were simultaneously the ostracism of the agents from their own community.”42Zimmermann, Martin: Gewalt. Die dunkle Seite der Antike. München 2013: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 39. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “In den Affekten des Lesers oder Zuhörers, in der Überschreitung der individuellen Reizschwelle wurden die Regeln vermittelt, die gesellschaftlich festgelegt waren und die der Autor teilte und vermitteln wollte. Ziel und Ergebnis war zugleich die Ausgrenzung der Akteure aus der eigenen Gemeinschaft.” The connection between violence and heroism is found here in the paradigm of enduring and suffering unjust violence, resulting in the establishment of a charged relationship to the victim. In this sense, the (re)presentations of Christ’s crucifixion do not spare the believers in Christianised Western Europe detailed references to the ordeals that the Son of God suffered for their salvation, and paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance graphically show how Christian martyrs were tortured, broken on the wheel and pierced with arrows. At the same time, in the Middle Ages of the 14th century, writings are also found that disregard the (re)presentation that was common up to that point of the hero’s physical fighting capabilities and suffered wounds, instead extolling the knight’s indifference towards injuries and fighting on as heroic.43Mauntel, Christoph: “Neue Helden für sich wandelnde Zeiten. Spätmittelalterliche Perspektiven auf das Beziehungsgeflecht von Gewalt und Heldentum”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 67-84. Thus, here as well, the heroization of the agent of the violence is oriented less towards the agent’s deed than it is towards the attitude about the dangers of violence.

In the secular 20th century (with precursors in the 18th and 19th centuries), the vast majority of war memorials and cemeteries commemorating the soldier heroes who fell in the First and Second World Wars is merely modest grave crosses, lists of names with dates of birth and death, terse inscriptions (“Having died a hero’s death…”) or they draw upon older systems of symbols such as the figure of Saint George the dragon slayer.44Koselleck, Reinhart / Jeismann, Michael: Der politische Totenkult. Kriegerdenkmäler in der Moderne. München 1994: Fink. Many monuments to heroes dispense with the names of the fallen entirely; they are dedicated to the “unknown soldier”. The more there is talk of (war) heroes in communities of remembrance of secular societies, it appears that there is less to be learned of the specifics in commemorations of the violence inflicted or suffered; at most, there are traces in symbolic references. In the National Socialist hero cult, selecting the colour red for placards and flags took into account the connotations “of the sacrifice of the dead heroes, but also of the fiery courage of the fighters”, as Sabine Behrenbeck writes.45Behrenbeck, Sabine: Der Kult um die toten Helden. Nationalsozialistische Mythen, Rituale und Symbole. Vierow bei Greifswald 1996: SH-Verlag, 420. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “[…] Opfer der toten Helden, aber auch den feurigen Mut der Kämpfer […]”. The hero (re)presented in the image appears bodiless in the sense that he, as a being out of flesh and blood, remains unseen. This remains true to today: all warring parties avoid as much as possible showing their own fallen heroes who placed their lives on the line for the nation – for a higher cause at any rate – as shredded corpses in imagery46Cf. in this regard the chapters in Brink, Cornelia / Falkenhayner, Nicole / von den Hoff, Ralf (Eds.): Helden müssen sterben. Würzburg 2019: Ergon. This is true most of all in official, political imagerial propaganda; in art, on the other hand, more explicit representations of those killed were and are often possible., even if the limits of what is showable can be moved, particularly in the forms of aestheticising the Muslim martyr.47Gölz: “Gemartert, gelächelt, geblutet für alle”, 2021; Pannewick, Friederike: Opfer, Tod und Liebe. Visionen des Martyriums in der arabischen Literatur. München 2012: Fink; cf. also Pannewick, Friederike: “Gewalt ohne Heldentum. Zur Poetik des ent-heroisierten Todes in der arabischen Erzählliteratur des 21. Jahrhunderts”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 213-227. Vice versa, presumably the explicit (re)presentation of violent deeds and their consequences – an act of killing or injured bodies hacked to pieces – cannot be associated with the heroization of the perpetrator or of the heroic victim fighting bravely for their convictions. Even though a violent deed can become a prerequisite for subsequent heroization (see above), this does not necessarily entail the community of admirers wanting to imagine the act of violence of the heroic deed itself all too concretely; their admiration is for the hero’s courage and self-mastery, their efforts against injustice and oppression, but not their bloody deed or the heroic toleration of gruesome agonies. By the community of admirers expressly professing in memorial or monument the values for which their hero took a stand, the violent deed that brought them that status (and that is confirmed with the admiration of third parties even if it contradicts their values) must remain unseen. Places where the dead heroes of past wars are remembered have not become tourist destinations just in recent history, like the example of Verdun shows, where one of the most costly battles of the First World War is remembered: “Through dramatisations, spectacular offerings and anecdotes, places of remembrance become places of experience whose potential to refer to historical events is overlaid by updating endeavours that focus on the emotional experience of today’s visitors.”48Glöckler, Benjamin / Günther, Felix W. / Marstaller, Vera: “Helden und Gedenktourismus – Eine Reise nach Verdun im September 2017”. In: helden.heroes.héros. E-Journal zu Kulturen des Heroischen 6.2 (2018): 17-21, 17. DOI: 10.6094/helden.heroes.heros./2018/02/02. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Durch mediale Inszenierungen, spektakuläre Angebote und Anekdoten werden aus Gedenkorten Erlebnisorte, deren Verweispotential auf historische Ereignisse überlagert wird von Aktualisierungsbestrebungen, welche auf das emotionale Miterleben heutiger Besucher_innen setzen.” The concrete violence that was exercised and suffered at the historical place appears in sublimated form here: Fort de Vaux for instance, part of the memorial in Verdun, “tries to make a literary sensibility of the site that testifies to the ‘blood of the heroes’ possible for its visitors.”49Glöckler et al.: “Helden und Gedenktourismus”, 2018, 19. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “[…] bemüht sich, seinen Besucher_innen ein literarisches Empfinden der vom ‘Blut der Helden’ zeugenden Stätte zu ermöglichen”. The ambivalence of martial heroes’ affinity towards violence, so it appears, can no longer be sustained in the modern period50Asch, Ronald G.: “Das ‘mörderische Zwielicht’ des Heroischen: Gewalt und Heldentum”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 229-237.; the way in which they are remembered in monuments, cemeteries and poems, even at former battle sites, confirms the impossibility of integrating the violence-prone or -suffering hero in the civilised world.51Cf. Reemtsma, Jan Philipp: “Dietrichs misslungene Brautwerbung. Über Heldengeschichten”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 33-46.

5. Violence and heroism in the perspective of the longue durée

The connection between heroizations and experiences of violence can be appropriately apprehended only in the perspective of the longue durée (cf. ⟶Temporal Structures of the Heroic).52In this section, we draw on earlier considerations from the application for the SFB’s second funding phase. Various aspects of this connection already mentioned can be found throughout eras (and cultures). These include for example the symbolic dimension of violence in view of the constitution of military ruler heroes in late antiquity and national hero(in)es in wars as well as the modernisation of (older) concepts of honour in the early modern period. The tension between the historical repetition of situations of violence and the exceptionalism of the current experiences of violence is another one of these identifiers that are not limited to the 20th century and the present.

Heroic violence is debated as a central problem of ethics already in the political theories and literary and artistic works of antiquity, the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Homer’s Achilles figure is certainly one well-known example. Where a ruler is killed, both the murderer and the murdered potentate can be ascribed heroic quality depending on whether the deed is understood as the revolt against a tyrant or as the attack on the legitimate sovereign.53Zwierlein, Cornel: “Der Mörder als Held? Jacques Clément als ligistischer Staatsgründungs-Held und Märtyrer-Heroe des Papsttums 1589”. In: Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon, 47-66. In the contrary assessments of acts of violence, there can be seen the heroization potential of political ideologies and world interpretations that differ, however, in their affinity towards the heroic and in their interpretation requirements for the heroic deed. Thus, on the one hand, processes of the nationalisation of violence and social disciplining for instance led to an incremental displacement of everyday violence in the course of the early modern period. In the 17th to the 19th century, dynamics of the unbinding of violence encountered attempts at its containment again and again. The use of violence is increasingly delegated to and legitimised solely for expert groups recruited by the state (e.g. military and police); for the rest of society, a heroic self-image is no longer immediately relevant. On the other hand, against this background no less, ideologies glorifying violence have increasingly established themselves from the time of the French Revolution until the mid-20th century – for instance in the heroization of the fighting soldier and in the ostracisation of the opponent as an enemy whose destruction legitimises any and all kinds of violence in a total war. To legitimise the destruction as a heroic deed, the danger ascribed to the opponent must be (re)presented as especially great. The ideologies of nationalism and later fascism and communism, or even political Islam in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran54Cf. Gölz, Olmo: “Martyrdom and Masculinity in Warring Iran”, 2019; Gölz, Olmo: “Heroes and the many: Typological reflections on the collective appeal of the heroic: Revolutionary Iran and its implications”. In: Thesis Eleven 165.1 (2021), 53-71., have unleashed with their programmes of total mobilisation heroic semantics of an ever-present fight for survival that demands the willingness for self-sacrifice from everyone. Since the late 18th century, but primarily from the mid-19th century until the Second World War, war has simultaneously been sacralised as a place of self-experience and self-discovery. Appeals to heroic conduct are generalised and radicalised by means of wartime propaganda.

The change in the form of violence in the age of what ultimately became total war and radical ideologies between 1914 and 1945 entailed a transformation of older concepts of heroization. In the face of the mass experience of war victims and invalidity, but also in light of eroding models of order such as monarchy and civic society, conventional notions of war heroes lost credibility and cogency. Heroic violence played a role in the invocations of the warrior-worker in fascism and Stalinism after the First World War, invocations that oscillated between futuristic modernity and mythic archaic, and not least of all in National Socialism. The extreme experiences of violence and the totalitarian ideologies produced a new ‘need for hero(in)es’. In National Socialism, every man who fought as a soldier and was willing to die for ‘Führer, Volk and Vaterland’ was deemed a potential hero. But it was no longer just select social groups like soldiers, but ultimately the entire population that was obliged to make heroic sacrifices in the name of the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ or ‘world revolution’. After the end of the world war era, such references and their underlying totalitarian ideologies were delegitimised. The affectivity, attraction and appeal of the hero were increased in the violent regimes of the 20th century – after the Second World War, their instrumentalisation was able to lead to the far-reaching debasement of the models, as was the case in Germany for instance.

At the same time, since the end of the Second World War, wars’ victims have been reinterpreted as hero(in)es; the heroic has been put into position against the unfettered violence of an anonymised war machine. In the second half of the 20th century, experiences of collective violence in ‘heroic communities’ like fascism, but also under colonial rule, instigated programmes of non-violence and pacifistic movements that heroize the non-violent struggle of their charismatic leader figures (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela). Such models of a heroic renunciation of violence that draw on traditions of religious martyrdom extract an active, heroic dimension from the ostensible passivity of such renunciation. However, these programmes of renouncing violence do not supplant ideas of heroic violence, but join them as one (heroization) option. In the second half of the 20th century, the processes of decolonisation, the implementation of new orders or the hope of new social systems are also accompanied by the heroization of revolutionary violence or of the struggle for freedom and even of the terrorism of all political and ideological hues. Hence, the 20th and 21st centuries have known a wide spectrum of heroic concepts of violence that are currently being reactivated.55See for example the reactivation of heroic war discourses in contemporary Iranian society discussed in: Schwartz, Kevin / Gölz, Olmo: “Going to War with the Coronavirus and Maintaining the State of Resistance in Iran”. In: Middle East Report Online, September 01, 2020. Online at: (accessed on 14.02.2022); Schwartz, Kevin / Gölz, Olmo: “Visual Propaganda at a Crossroads: New Techniques at Iran’s Vali Asr Billboard”. In: Visual Studies Ahead-of-print (2021): 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/1472586X.2021.1984292.

Fundamental for the reactivation or perpetuation of the link between the heroic and violence are now media such as the mass press, photography, television series and film. Violent heroes are virtually ubiquitous in popular blockbusters, television series or computer games: heroic violence in the mass media apparently exercises an aesthetic fascination – and thus casts doubt on the oft-alleged (but never actual) fundamental pacification of contemporary Western societies. Dietmar Dath writes in this regard: “Superheroines and superheroes are non-humans that we love ‘contrary to nature’, against reason and life experience, and they return this love so unreservedly that in their name prodigious deeds are done, enormous suffering is endured and entire societies are compelled to examine their highest moral and ethical principles”.56Dath: Superhelden, 2016, 17. Translation by Daniel Hefflebower. In the original: “Superheldinnen und Superhelden sind Nichtmenschen, die wir ‘wider die Natur’, gegen Vernunft und Lebenserfahrung lieben, und die diese Liebe so rückhaltlos erwidern, dass in ihrem Namen gewaltige Taten getan, ungeheuerliche Leiden erlitten und ganze Gesellschaften zur Überprüfung ihrer obersten sittlichen Grundsätze gezwungen wurden”.

6. Overview of the scholarly literature

The connection between heroism and violence has been reflected in scholarship to date primarily through case studies that focus on the connection between violence and masculinity while heroism seems a consequence of this connection. To name but two examples, the historiographic studies by Ute Frevert57Frevert, Ute: “Das Militär als Schule der Männlichkeiten”. In: Brunotte, Ulrike / Herrn, Rainer (Eds.): Männlichkeiten und Moderne. Geschlecht in den Wissenskulturen um 1900. Bielefeld 2008: Transcript, 57-75. and Karen Hagemann58Hagemann, Karen: “Of ‘Manly Valor’ and ‘German Honor’: Nation, War, and Masculinity in the Age of the Prussian Uprising Against Napoleon”. In: Central European History 30.2 (1997), 187-220. DOI: 10.1017/S0008938900014023. on the German 18th and 19th centuries develop the notion of the hero via militarised masculinities. In addition, the link between military heroism and idealised masculinity is the subject of numerous monographic works that centre around its manifestations in national histories, for example in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries59Schilling, René: ‘Kriegshelden’. Deutungsmuster heroischer Männlichkeit in Deutschland 1813–1945. Paderborn 2002: Schöningh., Great Britain60Dawson, Graham: Soldier Heroes. British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities. London 1994: Routledge. and the USA61Adams, Jon Robert: Male Armor. The Soldier-Hero in Contemporary American Culture. Charlottesville 2008: University of Virginia Press; Wendt, Simon (Ed.): Warring over Valor. How Race and Gender Shaped American Military Heroism in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. New Brunswick 2019: Rutgers University Press.. The tension between masculinity and war with its culmination in military heroism is addressed fundamentally and with global history aspirations by Leo Braudy in From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity (2005).62Braudy: From Chivalry to Terrorism, 2005. However, all these works first reference the connection between masculinity and violence, in this regard primarily in its organised form of the political violence of war – a field of study that has been examined extensively through approaches of different disciplines.

A theorising contribution to the connection between violence and heroism that initially eschews the detour of masculinity studies and aims to discuss this connection merely as one manifestation of the discursive concurrence of the two phenomena is still lacking. In the numerous and extensive handbooks and edited volumes on the study of violence, there is no chapter, let alone a lemma, on the hero or the heroic to date.63Cf. Gudehus, Christian / Christ, Michaela (Eds.): Gewalt. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart 2013: Metzler; Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Hagan, John (Eds.): International Handbook of Violence Research. Dordrecht 2003: Kluwer Academic Publishers; Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Soeffner, Hans-Georg (eds.): Gewalt. Entwicklungen, Strukturen, Analyseprobleme. Frankfurt a. M. 2004: Suhrkamp; Liell, Christoph (Ed.): Kultivierungen von Gewalt. Beiträge zur Soziologie von Gewalt und Ordnung. Kultur, Geschichte, Theorie. Vol. 2. Würzburg 2004: Ergon; von Trotha, Trutz (Ed.): Soziologie der Gewalt. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Sonderheft 37. Opladen 1997: Westdeutscher Verlag. Vice versa, the subject of violence has been taken up in recent hero scholarship, as can be seen both in recent publications64Cf. Katschnig-Fasch, Elisabeth: “Zur Genese der Gewalt der Helden”. In: Rolshoven, Johanna / Krause, Toni Janosch / Winkler, Justin (Eds.): Heroes – Repräsentationen des Heroischen in Geschichte, Literatur und Alltag. Bielefeld 2018: Transcript, 21-40. and in the writings of the SFB 948 ‘Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms’ that prominently deal with the tension between violence and heroism.65Cf. Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon.

7. References

8. Selected literature

  • Adams, Jon Robert: Male Armor. The Soldier-Hero in Contemporary American Culture. Charlottesville 2008: University of Virginia Press.
  • Baberowski, Jörg: Räume der Gewalt. Frankfurt a. M. 2015: S. Fischer.
  • Beck, Teresa Koloma / Schlichte, Klaus: Theorien der Gewalt zur Einführung. Hamburg 2015: Junius.
  • Behrenbeck, Sabine: Der Kult um die toten Helden. Nationalsozialistische Mythen, Rituale und Symbole. Vierow bei Greifswald 1996: SH-Verlag.
  • Braudy, Leo: From Chivalry to Terrorism. War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity. New York 2005: Vintage Books.
  • Brink, Cornelia / Falkenhayner, Nicole / von den Hoff, Ralf (Eds.): Helden müssen sterben. Würzburg 2019: Ergon.
  • Dawson, Graham: Soldier Heroes. British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities. London 1994: Routledge.
  • Gestrich, Andreas (Ed.): Gewalt im Krieg. Ausübung, Erfahrung und Verweigerung von Gewalt in Kriegen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Münster 1996: Lit.
  • Goltermann, Svenja: Victims. Perceptions of Suffering and Violence in Modern Europe. Oxford 2022: Oxford University Press.
  • Gölz, Olmo / Brink, Cornelia (Eds.): Gewalt und Heldentum. Baden-Baden 2020: Ergon.
  • Gudehus, Christian / Christ, Michaela (Eds.): Gewalt. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart 2013: Metzler.
  • Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Hagan, John (Eds.): International Handbook of Violence Research. Dordrecht 2003: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Heitmeyer, Wilhelm / Soeffner, Hans-Georg (Eds.): Gewalt. Entwicklungen, Strukturen, Analyseprobleme. Frankfurt a. M. 2004: Suhrkamp.
  • Liell, Christoph (Ed.): Kultivierungen von Gewalt. Beiträge zur Soziologie von Gewalt und Ordnung. Kultur, Geschichte, Theorie. Vol. 2. Würzburg 2004: Ergon.
  • Popitz, Heinrich: Phenomena of Power. Authority, Domination, and Violence. Transl. by Gianfranco Poggi, ed. by Andreas Göttlich and Jochen Dreher. New York 2017: Columbia University Press.
  • Reemtsma, Jan Philipp: Trust and Violence. An Essay on a Modern Relationship. Transl. by Dominic Bonfiglio. Princeton/Oxford 2012: Princeton University Press.
  • Rolshoven, Johanna / Krause, Toni Janosch / Winkler, Justin (Eds.): Heroes – Repräsentationen des Heroischen in Geschichte, Literatur und Alltag. Bielefeld 2018: Transcript.
  • von Trotha, Trutz (Ed.): Soziologie der Gewalt. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Sonderhefte 37. Opladen 1997: Westdeutscher Verlag.
  • Watanabe-O’Kelly, Helen: Beauty or Beast? The Woman Warrior in the German Imagination from the Renaissance to the Present. Oxford 2010: Oxford University Press.
  • Wendt, Simon (Ed.): Warring over Valor. How Race and Gender Shaped American Military Heroism in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. New Brunswick 2019: Rutgers University Press.
  • Zimmermann, Martin: Gewalt. Die dunkle Seite der Antike. München 2013: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt.

9. List of images

Teaser image: Francisco de Goya: Los Desastres de la Guerra. Plate 31: „Fuerte cosa es!“, c. 1810–1813, etching, aquatinta and drypoint, 155 x 204 mm, London, British Museum, Reg. no. 1975,1025.421.33.
Source: Trustees of the British Museum
Licence: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0


Cornelia Brink / Olmo Gölz: Violence and Heroism. In: Compendium heroicum, ed. by Ronald G. Asch, Achim Aurnhammer, Georg Feitscher, Anna Schreurs-Morét, and Ralf von den Hoff, published by Sonderforschungsbereich 948, University of Freiburg, Freiburg 2022-09-08. DOI: 10.6094/heroicum/gewe1.0.20220908