Teaching American Gun Cultures | MLA Special Session, Vancouver 2015

full name / name of organization: 
Rasmus R. Simonsen
contact email: 
rsimonse@uwo.ca

Today, Americans collectively own well over 200 million guns. And so it seems impossible to imagine the United States without the presence of guns. To own or not to own a firearm is a question that surely defines other crucial aspects of what it means to be American. This Special Session invites innovative approaches to teaching the representation of American gun cultures based on, but not limited to, geography, socio-economic status, race, gender, and sexuality.

While the largest group of gun owners consists of white Southern males, we cannot restrict our inquiry to one “culture.” A number of different cultural patterns are associated with owning and using guns, and so we need to contend with the multivalent nature of the topic, one that goes well beyond the public debate over gun control. Of course, issues related to guns in the US are controversial, which means that instructors must carefully choose the pedagogical tools for analyzing how American gun cultures intersect with patterns of violence. Discussions about gun control typically follow what we might call a pattern of tragedy. Indeed, spectacular assassinations and mass killings breathe new life into the demand for more control, but what can this relationship between death, legislation, and political action tell us about the formation of American identities?

Papers could explore the following questions:

  • How do we ensure that classroom discussion does not simply mimic the prevalent tension between control and rights discourses that typically mar the public debate?
  • As instructors, what can we do to actively de-politicize class discussion in favor of an analytical approach?
  • What should the syllabus include for a course on gun cultures?
  • What kind of teaching tools would be appropriate for teaching this kind of course?
  • How does race impact the discussion of gun control (e.g., in relation to “stand-your-ground” cases)?
  • How are guns gendered? How are men and women wielding guns differently portrayed in popular culture? How have guns impacted American feminisms?
  • Guns seem to fit a patriarchal, hetero-normative pattern, but could we imagine or find teachable examples of queering guns, for example?

Please submit 250-300 word abstracts for 20-minute papers + a CV to Rasmus R. Simonsen at rsimonse@uwo.ca by March 15.

Note: This is a proposed Special Session for MLA 2015 in Vancouver, January 8-11. Participation requires MLA membership by April 1, 2014.


cfp categories: 
african-american
american
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ethnicity_and_national_identity
gender_studies_and_sexuality
international_conferences
popular_culture
professional_topics