The Center for the Study of Guns and Society will be the first academic site dedicated to interdisciplinary humanities study and teaching on the social and cultural history of firearms.
Guns hold a central and uniquely polarizing place in American society and culture today, yet there are many unanswered questions about how and why contemporary attitudes, meanings, and values associated with guns have developed. Academic study of guns has been largely relegated to schools of law and public health, while the story of guns in America has been relatively overlooked in humanities and social science academic research. There are currently very few courses on the history of guns and culture taught at colleges and universities anywhere in the world.
The new Center on the Study of Guns and Society (CSGS) at Wesleyan University aims to fill this void. To our knowledge, it is the first center for interdisciplinary humanities study and teaching of guns at any U.S. college or university. The center will be a hub for pioneering interdisciplinary research and teaching on a wide variety of topics in firearms history. It will convene researchers who teach on guns and history at the college and university level to share ideas and pedagogies, and to test and disseminate new methods through workshops, conferences, public scholarship, and a range of collaborations. It will foster the convergence of multiple perspectives and pedagogical approaches from a range of academic disciplines. While the center’s research and teaching focus will be primarily historical, we invite synergistic collaboration with scholars conducting related work in other disciplines.
The new center is directed by Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history at Wesleyan University. A scholar of the interrelations of art, science and technology, her research examines a variety of topics in firearms history. She is the co-editor of A Right to Bear Arms? The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press and Penguin Books, 2019), and the author of several scholarly articles, book chapters, and research-informed opinion pieces and interviews that have appeared in media outlets such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNN.
In January 2013, as Interim Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life at Wesleyan, she convened the first town hall meeting in Connecticut focused on gun research. In 2017, she convened the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns at Wesleyan on the theme “Guns in American Society,” which attracted an audience of scholars, students, alumni, and experts for two days of panels on interdisciplinary topics, including public health, policy, history, and the role of arts in today’s debate over guns.
Tucker is a founding member and vice president of the National Association of Firearms History and Museums. The new center will build on Tucker’s ongoing collaborations with a network of curators and researchers in firearms museums across the U.S. and internationally, including the new Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West; the Royal Armouries (Tower of London); the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s Gun Room; and the National Rifle Association Museums, among others.
The center’s associate director is Joseph Slaughter, assistant professor of the practice of religion at Wesleyan. Slaughter’s research and teaching focuses on how religious movements and businesses have shaped American capitalism and warfare. His courses at Wesleyan explore how North American cultures have shaped the history of firearms in the United States.
About Wesleyan University
Founded in 1831, Wesleyan University is a top national liberal arts university with a longstanding dedication to interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching and an outstanding tradition of engaged public scholarship. Its home in Middletown, Connecticut in the central Connecticut River Valley places it at the historic core of firearms manufacturing the U.S., and in close range of myriad academic institutions and historic sites to enable collaborations and historic research and teaching opportunities on firearms.