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.

Continue reading