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Abstract

When Senate Bill 11 was filed in the Texas legislature in January 2015, the talk in Austin was that this time around, it had a distinct shot of passing. Similar efforts had been proposed before, but they had all fallen short. After the news hit the stands, imaginaries related to firearms on campuses took on a life of their own. The campus community, local newspapers, and activist groups tried to make sense of the hypothetical realities of an armed campus. This chapter probes the debates surrounding the Campus Carry legislation before and after its implementation in Texas in August 2016. Drawing on two town hall-style public debates organized at UT Austin and internet responses related to them, newspaper reporting from the Austin American-Statesman, and firsthand experiences from students, faculty, and administrators, the discussion reveals that debates about firearms frequently have little—if anything—to do with guns. And therein lies their power. What may ostensibly strike one as a debate about self-protection on closer look exposes implicit assumptions about race, gender, and class relations. By disentangling the multiple layers beneath the gun debates, we are faced with a heterogeneous community not only grappling with firearms but multiple, loaded social conflicts amplified within the armed campus space.

Open Access
In: Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas

Abstract

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.

Open Access
In: Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas

Abstract

This chapter’s presentation of 17 full-color photographs reveals both formal and informal imaginaries of Texas gun culture, providing a visual context for the various subject matters discussed throughout the volume. This set of images was collected during fieldwork in Texas in 2018–2019 during the research project on Campus Carry conducted by the John Morton Center for North American Studies at the University of Turku, Finland. As such, it encompasses the “before and after” of the implementation of the SB 11 legislation, providing an alternative interpretative lens onto the conceptualization and experiencing of firearms in the campus space, as well as related aspects of gun culture in the Lone Star State. These visual materials offer a broader and more complex understanding of the ways in which people take a stand on policymaking, while also giving a useful tool to penetrate official discourses and historical imaginaries that might not be revealed otherwise. This chapter provides an important linkage between theoretical discussion and an experiential component, which focuses on both the research subjects’ and scholars’ spatial maneuvering within and outside of academia and other areas of Texas.

Open Access
In: Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas
Up in Arms provides an illustrative and timely window onto the ways in which guns shape people’s lives and social relations in Texas. With a long history of myth, lore, and imaginaries attached to gun carrying, the Lone Star State exemplifies how various groups of people at different historical moments make sense of gun culture in light of legislation, political agendas, and community building. Beyond gun rights, restrictions, or the actual functions of firearms, the book demonstrates how the gun question itself becomes loaded with symbolic firepower, making or breaking assumptions about identities, behavior, and belief systems.

Contributors include: Benita Heiskanen, Albion M. Butters, Pekka M. Kolehmainen, Laura Hernández-Ehrisman, Lotta Kähkönen, Mila Seppälä, and Juha A. Vuori.

Abstract

This introductory chapter lays out the themes and research design of Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas. It explicates the ways in which imaginaries about guns have significant performative power and ramifications for individuals, communities, and the nation. Conceiving of imaginaries as gateways between the real world and ideological abstractions, it elaborates how they serve various important functions, driving legislative efforts, political agendas, community building, and social divisions. The chapter illustrates how the volume uses both historical and contemporary imaginaries as lenses through which to explore and better understand a range of cultural aspects intertwined with gun debates in the United States, and Texas in particular. As a nexus of gun debates, the Lone Star State has built its history, identity, and cultural mythology on stories that depict how gun culture was imagined into the very core of collective identity, built environment, and popular culture—with tangible, real-world consequences.

Open Access
In: Up in Arms: Gun Imaginaries in Texas