Bodies of War: Disabilities and Heroism in the First World War

Rhian Atkin


In the present article, I analyze discourses of masculinity and the male body associated with Portugal’s involvement in World War I. I examine these from three perspectives: the national military body; medical and political discussion of disabled bodies; and soldiers’ stories about their own experiences. I draw on the popular press, published memoirs, and government and institutional documents to examine the fluid and shifting accounts of masculinity, disability, and heroism during and just after the war. I argue that representations of heroism in this context are directly linked to the male body; furthermore, they are both variable and constructed to serve specific ideological or personal purposes. More broadly, I conclude that the body in war and disabled by war comes to stand for Portugal’s experiences as a nation at the Western Front, and in the process makes invisible the individual bodies of men who fought for their country.


Military; Corpo Expedicionário Português; masculinity; injury

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2018 Rhian Atkin