Memory and sacrifice: An embodied theory of Martyrdom

Michaela DeSoucey, Jo Ellen Pozner, Corey Fields, Kerry Dobransky, Gary A Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We use a reputational approach to create a theory of martyrdom that synthesizes scholarship on the body politic, cultural symbols, and collective memory. The making of a martyr, a contested social process, depends on both the resources of the martyr's supporters and the cultural context into which the martyr's image is introduced. Our approach is well suited to analyzing how martyrs are used 'on the ground' and given cultural and material utility. We highlight the attention paid to the conception and reception of the martyr's corporeal body, in particular, as a source of identity and meaning, giving emotional weight to social ideas about death and sacrifice. Control over martyrs' bodies derives from the cultural and political intricacies of reputational entrepreneurship, thus employing the body as a medium of culture. To examine this concept of embodied martyrdom, we examine the cases of Joan of Arc, John Brown, and Che Guevara.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-121
Number of pages23
JournalCultural Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008


  • Collective memory
  • Cultural objects
  • Martyrdom
  • Reputational entrepreneurship
  • Sociology of the body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Social Sciences(all)


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