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Unconquerable Heroes: Invictus, Redemption, and the Cultural Politics of Narrative

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alice Cree



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Taylor and Francis, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The wounded veteran is a challenging subject for the state. Such figures bring us face to face with the fleshy and embodied impacts of state violence, and act as ‘constant reminders to the able-bodied of the negative body – of what the able-bodied are trying to avoid, forget and ignore’ (Hughes 2009, 406). These subjects must by necessity be narratively managed and reclaimed by the state, in ways which both recognise the violence of warfare and render critical responses inappropriate. Using the example of the Invictus Games, this paper argues that the wounded military body can in part be recast through emotional-political narratives of techno-heroic redemption. Through the display of ‘cyborg bodies’, elite sports men and women with prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and national flags draped around their shoulders, the Games have become performance of a posthuman body, with a ‘more-than-human’ capacity to transgress boundaries of human capability. In this way, the Games show how the narrative managing of wounded military bodies can act in service of state redemption from the violence of warfare. This paper therefore contributes to existing literatures on the politics of veteran injury, sport and war, and indeed to wider debates regarding the regulation of violence and narratives of war by the liberal state. The paper concludes by arguing that the managing of the narrative actually serves to enact a different kind of violence upon wounded military subjects, one borne out of the ‘profound inequality of storytelling’ (Plummer 2016, 285). There is no place in Invictus for veterans who convey bitterness, despondence, defeat or anger; so what can we say of those who are written out of the story?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cree ASJ, Caddick N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of War and Culture Studies

Year: 2020

Volume: 13

Issue: 3

Pages: 258-278

Online publication date: 14/05/2019

Acceptance date: 30/04/2019

Date deposited: 30/04/2019

ISSN (print): 1752-6272

ISSN (electronic): 1752-6280

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/17526272.2019.1615707


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