The Sensual, Moral, and Political Dimensions of Guns

in Language of the Gun

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780226316086
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226316079 | DOI:
The Sensual, Moral, and Political Dimensions of Guns

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This chapter offers a glimpse of the sensual, moral, and political dimensions of guns and gun carrying among the Catalina youths—at the Catalina Mountain School in Tucson, Arizona. The focus on particular gun contexts and situations—carrying, gang membership, drugs, and incarceration, to name a few—demonstrates some fluidity in the meaning structures of youths' talk about guns. The chapter explores some larger and recurring dimensions that permeate and cut across the different registers—what the chapter refers to as the sensual, the moral, and the political dimensions of the language of guns. Throughout the interviews there are tensions and conflicts—ruptures between these different moral, sensual, and political dimensions. Most of the Catalina youths experience what seems to be genuine internal turmoil, existential angst between wanting to be “down” and wanting to straighten up. Many are negotiating a sharp conflict between wanting to burglarize homes, get rich quick, and party and use drugs and wanting to continue their education, go to college, and have a legitimate job.

Keywords: gun carrying; Catalina youths; gang membership; incarceration; language of guns; moral dimension

Chapter.  4600 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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