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Understanding Heroism: Transdisciplinary Perspectives

Efthimiou, Olivia (2017) Understanding Heroism: Transdisciplinary Perspectives. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The past decade has seen an uptake of research on the topic of heroism spanning an increasingly wide range of disciplines. This has resulted in the birth of the emerging field of “heroism science.” Nascent research on heroism, however, is confined to specific disciplinary perspectives.

The purpose of this thesis was to address this gap by undertaking a transdisciplinary approach, highlighting the value of synthesising various theoretical frameworks in the study of heroism and transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries. The thesis was guided by the following research question: How can a parallel reading of cultural, biological, psychological and social narratives enhance our understanding of heroism as a persistent phenomenon in lived experience in contemporary Western societies?

This thesis sought to: (a) identify common narrative structures in culture, biology and psychology, and consider strategies for finding common ground between them; (b) contribute to the broader discussion of developing critical, multi-perspective and dynamic wellbeing frameworks; (c) revisit and emphasise the importance of story and metaphor in the early 21st century; and, (d) explore the presence of heroism in
specific applied contexts through the use of mixed methods, including in-depth interviews with experts across disciplines, ethnographic data, and analysing extant data sets through emerging heroism theoretical frameworks.

I argue that a critique of heroism lends well to this transdisciplinary approach given the historical permanence of the phenomenon and its broad uses in a range of contexts. I apply this transdisciplinary approach to the study of heroism in several settings, which include embodiment, classical Greek philosophy, leadership, sustainability, career identity, playful participation and research practices. The thesis shows that the emerging field of heroism science can make important advancements in personal and community sustainable development in increasingly complex social landscapes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Richardson, Ingrid and Broderick, Mick
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