This article argues that the imaginary and the experienced body cannot fully be understood without an appreciation of the specific historical context in which they are formed. Offering a case study of military masculinity in Britain in the Second World War, the article examines the significance of the medical examination and subsequent physical classification of potential recruits to the Armed Forces in constructions of the male body. Individual responses, drawn from oral testimonies, are examined to explore the relationship between the discursive and experienced body. These suggest the power of the social body in defining the meaning of the individual body. Nonetheless, despite the dominance of physical classification in the definition of hegemonic masculinity, individual experiences reveal that the concept and meaning of physical grading could be negotiated in ways which introduced less stable and more multiple meanings of the individual body and its relationship to the national body.
This article was written following a direct request from the then editor of Body and Society but emerged from the author's awareness of a dearth in the literature on the Second World War of research comparing civilian and military masculinities. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : History