Response to Chad Kautzer on America as a Tactical Gun Culture

In approaching the scholarly literature in my Sociology of Guns seminar, I tell my students that they need to read in two steps: reading WITH the grain of a text and reading AGAINST the grain.

I take these ideas from David Bartholomae and Aaron Petrosky’s Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers.

To read generously, to work inside someone else’s system, to see your world in someone else’s terms — we call this “reading with the grain.”

Bartholomae and Petrosky, Ways of Reading

To read against the grain, by contrast, means:

to read critically, to turn back, for example, against an author’s project, to ask questions they believe might come as a surprise, to look for the limits of their vision, to provide alternate readings of the examples, to find examples that challenge their arguments – to engage the author, in other words, in dialogue.

Bartholomae and Petrosky, Ways of Reading

These two moments in the reading process are characterized by generosity and dialogue. Encouraging this among my students is part of my general approach to the issue of guns in America: light over heat.

As a reader recently, I fell short of my own ideal in engaging an essay by Chad Kautzer published in the Boston Review, “America as a Tactical Gun Culture.” I did not read generously in the first moment and I did not seek to engage in dialogue. Kautzer wrote a quick reply to my original post which gives me a second chance.

Read on for my response to Kautzer’s reply.

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Author Chad Kautzer’s Reply to “Boston Review’s Magnificently Consistent Takes on Gun Culture”

Below you will find a comment written by one of the authors whose work I criticized in a recent post, philosopher Chad Kautzer. Because many people miss (or actively avoid reading) the comments, I offered to move his comments to a free-standing post as a reply to my original.

As Kautzer notes, authors feel honored when people take time to read and think about their work, even when you don’t think the reader gets it quite right, or even if you think the reader gets it quite wrong. I feel the same here, and posting his vigorous reply fits in with my overall goal in attempting to understand guns and gun culture in America: LIGHT OVER HEAT.

My original post (as evidenced by a mistake Kautzer notes) and Kautzer’s reply were both written fairly quickly, and so Kautzer’s reply here appears as it was originally written to preserve that reality. Please read on.

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