Copeland Colloquium Focuses on Guns
Issue   |   Wed, 10/05/2016 - 01:07
Takudzwa Tapfuma '17
Jennifer Yida Pan conducts research at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry on Monday, Oct. 3. Pan is one of four Copeland Fellows who will conduct research at the college on the colloquium’s topic, “The Social Life of Guns.”

The Copeland Colloquium, a biennial event featuring lectures, discussions and other events, will be held this year with the theme “The Social Life of Guns.”

The main event of the colloquium will be a conference titled “The Symbolic and Material Construction of Guns,” which will be held in March 2017. Researchers from various institutions across the country will present research on this topic at the event. In addition, the Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought department’s lecture series has adopted the theme “Guns in Law” and will invite speakers specializing in the topic of the colloquium.

The theme proposal was submitted by a group of faculty members from a variety of academic departments, including anthropology, political science and sexuality, women’s and gender studies, that met for regular discussions on the subject of violence over the past two years.

“Over the course of those conversations, it became clear that we were sort of concentrating our questions around material aspects of violence and that there was interest in the group about the gun in particular,” said Professor of Political Science Andrew Poe, one of the colloquium organizers.

According to Poe, the colloquium will extend these discussions in the form of interdisciplinary “broader conversations” about the role of guns in society and culture.

“There’s this well-known cliché, popularized by gun advocates, that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’” he said. “It was our thought that really, something might be changing in American culture, in gun culture and in how guns are produced and used that might actually make that cliché invalid.”

As part of the colloquium organizers’ aim to bring outside voices to campus, four fellows from other institutions will be conducting research at Amherst with the sponsorship of a faculty member.

“When I read about this year’s focus, it was obvious to me that I needed to apply,” said Chad Kautzer, one of the four Copeland fellows, in an email interview. Kautzer, an assistant professor of philosophy at Lehigh University, will arrive at the college in January to start his research.

“As a Copeland Fellow, I will be able to expand on this work in my book project, ‘Good Guys with Guns: Whiteness, Masculinity, and the Politics of Sovereignty,’” Kautzer said. “This book will provide a new framework for understanding the social significance of firearms.”

Copeland Fellow Jennifer Yida Pan, a PhD student in English at the University of Chicago, has already arrived. Pan said that the theme of the colloquium related closely to her own research interests in firearms and literature from the 18th century to the present.

The final two fellows are Nathan Shelton, a PhD student in sociology at the University of Wisconsin and Alex Young, who recently received a PhD in English from the University of Southern California.

The colloquium also includes weekly lunch discussions for college faculty and researchers in order to “motivate faculty to engage in an interdisciplinary conversation that might be of interest but outside their basic areas of specialty,” said Poe.

Pan said that she has enjoyed these discussions so far, describing them as “incredibly stimulating.” She added that they may help shape her dissertation.

The first event associated with the colloquium, which was part of the “Guns in Law” lecture series, took place on Sept. 19. The next event will be another lecture scheduled for Oct. 24.