Anthropology for a Safer World

Guns, Anthropology, Safety

The March 2018 issue of Open Anthropology, titled Enough: Anthropologists Take on Gun Violence, highlighted anthropological research which helps in understanding and teaching about the #MarchForOurLives on guns and gun reform. This volume supported the February 2018 announcement from the American Anthropological Association (AAA): AAA Pushes for Comprehensive Evidence-Based Approach to Prevent Gun Violence. Ending restrictions on publicly funded research into gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was also the first item mentioned by Charles Blow in America Is the Gun.

The March volume of Open Anthropology made 15 articles in AAA publications free to read through March 2019. Below, I additionally composed an anthropological bibliography on guns that aligns with an ongoing theme for Living Anthropologically: see the gun violence index-tag and the end of this post for a summary of the series on gun control, gun reform, gun safety, and gun violence. And while I definitely support research into evidence-based gun violence prevention, there is quite enough research already available to take legislative action. See This is how we save lives from gun violence by Robert Gebelhoff in the Washington Post for a number of measures that can be enacted and already have support from existing research.

In June 2018, Saira A. Mehmood published The Fallacy of Equating Gun Violence with Mental Illness on Anthropology News, citing the Open Anthropology issue on Gun Violence.

Articles from AAA Publications

Abajian, Suzie M. 2016. “Documenting Militarism: Challenges of Researching Highly Contested Practices within Urban Schools.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 47(1):25-41.

Anderson-Fye, Eileen P., and Jerry Floersch. 2011. ““I’m Not Your Typical ‘Homework Stresses Me Out’ Kind of Girl”: Psychological Anthropology in Research on College Student Usage of Psychiatric Medications and Mental Health Services.” Ethos 39(4):501-521.

Anthropology News. 2016. “November/December Print Issue: Mass Shootings.” 57(11):e1-e56. Six articles:

Ben-Ari, Eyal, and Sabine Frühstück. 2003. “The celebration of violence: A live-fire demonstration carried out by Japan’s contemporary military.” American Ethnologist 30(4):540-555.

Benson, Peter. 2014. “Corporate Paternalism and the Problem of Harmful Products.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 37(2):218-230.

Beresin, Anna Richman. 2002. “Children’s Expressive Culture in Light of September 11, 2001.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 33(3):331-337.

Blair, Zachary. 2016. “The Pulse Nightclub Shooting: Connecting Militarism, Neoliberalism, and Multiculturalism to Understand Violence.” North American Dialogue 19(2):102-116.

Devine, John. 1995. “Can Metal Detectors Replace the Panopticon?” Cultural Anthropology 10(2):171-195.

Dorst, John. 1993. “A Walk Through the Shooting Gallery.” Museum Anthropology 17(3):7-13.

Hultin, Niklas. 2015. “Leaky Humanitarianism: The Anthropology of Small Arms Control in the Gambia.” American Ethnologist 42(1):68-80.

Ives, Denise, and Camille Cammack. 2017. “High-Five Fridays: (Mis)trust-Building in One White Liberal Community.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 48(4):403-410.

Lende, Daniel H. 2013. “The Newtown Massacre and Anthropology’s Public Response.” American Anthropologist 115(3):496-499.

Metz, Brent, Lorenzo Mariano, and Julián López García. 2010. “The Violence After ‘La Violencia’ in the Ch’orti’ Region of Eastern Guatemala.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 15(1):16-41.

Palinkas, Lawrence A. 2005. Review of Katherine S. Newman, Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings. American Ethnologist 32(3):3034-3035.

Pinnow, Rachel J. 2013. “An Ecology of Fear: Examining the Contradictory Surveillance Terrain Navigated by Mexican Youth in a U.S. Middle School.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 44(3):253-268.

Springwood, Charles Fruehling. 2008. Review of Bernard E. Harcourt, Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, & Public Policy and Abigail A. Kohn, Shooters: Myths & Realities of America’s Gun Culture. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 31(1):180-185.

Straight, Bilinda. 2009. “Making Sense of Violence in the “Badlands” of Kenya.” Anthropology and Humanism 34(1):21-30.

Wolseth, Jon. 2008. “Everyday Violence and the Persistence of Grief: Wandering and Loss Among Honduran Youths.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 13(2):311-335. (Note that this article also appeared in the October 2013 volume of Open Anthropology On Violence.)

Anthropology Articles & Chapters (non-AAA)

Anderson, Joe. 2017. “Gun owners, ethics, and the problem of evil: A response to the Las Vegas shooting.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7(3):39-48. With commentary by Deborah Durham, Niklas Hultin, Hugh Gusterson, and Charles Fruehling. Gusterson, referencing his 2013 article below, provides helpful context:

Anderson–like the two other ethnographers of US gun culture I have read (Kohn 2004; Doukas 2010)–bends over backward to see the gun debate from his natives’ point of view. . . . In an earlier discussion of Kohn’s and Doukas’ work, I wrote that “while such reports from behind ideological enemy lines are certainly useful and interesting . . . anthropology surely has more to contribute to the gun-control debate than a warmed-over rehash of NRA talking points legitimated by our discipline’s historic legacy of cultural relativism.”

Gusterson, Hugh. 2013. “Making a Killing.” Anthropology Today 29:1-2. This article resulted in two responses in the subsequent issues of Anthropology Today. Niklas Hultin wrote “Guns, anthropology, and cultural relativism: A response to Hugh Gusterson’s ‘Making a killing’” and then Gusterson wrote “Gun control: A response to Niklas Hultin.” In a February 2018 tweet, Hultin writes of this exchange: “Actually not a lot of daylight between our positions, I think, so not much of a debate.”

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2014. “The house gun: White writing, white fears and black justice.” Anthropology Today 30(6):8-12.

——. 2015. “WOUNDED: Getting On and Off a War Footing.” Common Knowledge 21(3):437-450.

Springwood, Charles Fruehling. 2014. “Gun concealment, display, and other magical habits of the body.” Critique of Anthropology 34(4):450-471.


Debos, Marielle. 2016. Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity and State Formation. Translated by Andrew Brown. London: Zed Books.

Devine, John. 1996. Maximum Security: The Culture of Violence in Inner-City Schools . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Newman, Katherine S. 2004. Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings. New York: Basic Books.

Nolan, Kathleen. 2011. Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Springwood, Charles Fruehling, ed. 2007. Open Fire: Understanding Global Gun Cultures. New York: Berg.

Blogs & Online

Symposium on gun violence research attracts leading scholars describes a March 2018 conference organized by Professor of Anthropology Kathryn Mariner.

anthropologyworks. 2011. Our guns, our selves. Although dating from 2011, this post nevertheless contains a helpful bibliography, including archaeology citations. There is also a helpful summary of issues that persist into 2018: “Archaeologists spend a lot of time analyzing weapons of our prehistoric past. Cultural anthropologists are more likely to study bananas, cars and wedding dress style. Commodity studies in cultural anthropology rarely address weapons.”

Gusterson, Hugh. 2012. “Arming Ourselves to Death.” Anthropology Now.

Laden, Greg. 2018. “Gun Control and School Shootings.” Greg Laden Blog, 15 February 2018.

Somatosphere in May 2018 began a series Notes on guns and violence:

Wilshusen, Richard. 2018. “Grief can make us wise.” Sapiens, 20 February 2018.

To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2018. “Guns and Anthropology: Ethnography, #MarchForOurLives, and a Safer World.” Living Anthropologically website, First posted 19 February 2018. Revised 31 May 2019.


This blog has urged anthropology to directly address gun control and gun violence. See the gun violence index-tag. The series includes: