The concluding chapter wraps up the volume by pointing to the explanatory, social, and performative aspects of gun imaginaries, as understood through the various historical contexts and interpretive lenses that the contributors engage. The transdisciplinary American Studies explications of gun debates demonstrate the great significance invested in weapons culture in the United States, be it on societal, cultural, or academic levels. Guns as imaginaries galvanize individuals who are up in arms, while their actions and reactions reverberate into further imaginaries; thus, individuals and communities simultaneously shape and are shaped by the broader power relations that they are necessarily a part of. Ultimately, the exploration of Texas as a gun imaginary and guns as a Texan imagery provides a toolbox and a roadmap for future discussions of the significance of firearms in other geographic contexts beyond the United States.
This chapter examines firearms fetishism as a complex assemblage of gun imaginaries and belief. Understanding fetishism as tightly intertwined with religion and shifts in gun culture over the past half century, the discussion focuses on Texas and its predominant forms of Christianity, and demonstrates the connection between gun ownership and religiosity. Drawing on research materials and interviews with Texas residents at a pair of universities in Austin, the chapter also examines the significance of two shootings in churches in Texas before and after a recent law (Senate Bill 535) that allows concealed and open carry in public places of worship. In this way, the chapter analyzes the nature of the gun owner’s relationship with the object and what it symbolizes. As viewed through the lens of fetishism theory, this may involve an explicitly religious aspect, commodification, or even a sexualized interpretation. Invoking existing gendered ideals of the hero archetype, firearms fetishism is revealed to play a fundamental role in the construction and expression of moral and religious identity in Texas.
This chapter explores the act of political imagining around guns by centering on the temporal imaginaries constructed about the Founding Fathers in gun debates in Texas. It questions how the groups on both sides invoke the Founding Fathers as both objects and subjects of political imaginations. On one hand, political activists have created imaginary historical versions of the Founding Fathers to place them in relation to their own political imaginations in the modern day, to depict their stance as a continuum of a wider arc of history. On the other hand, the debates have touched on the potential limits of the imaginations of the Founding Fathers themselves, sparking discussions and disagreements on what the historical figures could have imagined in their own times. The chapter uses a body of materials drawn from media, activists, and fieldwork interviews to explore these two points and to elucidate through them the larger dynamics of political conflict in the contemporary United States. It asks how the temporal imaginaries of the Founding Fathers constructed around guns are drawn into larger ideological tensions that govern modern politics.
The Tower shooting at The University of Texas at Austin on August 1, 1966 is among the first and most memorable mass shootings in U.S. history because of its wide media coverage. Drawing from theorization of cultural trauma and trauma cultures after World War II, this chapter explores the mediation and narrativization of the Tower shooting as a cultural trauma. In this framing, trauma is a product of history and politics, and subject to reinterpretation. The chapter takes a closer look at the KTBC special news report aired immediately after the shooting, and two narratives: Elizabeth’s Crook’s novel Monday, Monday (2014) and Keith Maitland’s animated documentary film Tower (2016), created in response to a collective need for commemoration several decades later. The narratives reify a particular imagery that shapes the collective trauma and its affective resonance. The chapter focuses on the gendered figures of heroes, victims, and survivors in constituting the collective trauma that emerges as a result of a cultural crisis. How are these figures highlighted in the narratives? What cultural values and concerns relating to mass shootings as traumatizing experiences does the gendered imagery reveal? An analysis of gendered heroes, victims, and survivors brings perspectives on the pervasive cultural mode in which the collective trauma of mass shooting is processed within U.S. gun culture.