Carlson_Mourning Mayberry - 554799 research-article2014...

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GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 29 No. 3, June 2015 386–409DOI: 10.1177/0891243214554799© 2014 by The Author(s)MOURNING MAYBERRY: Guns, Masculinity, and Socioeconomic DeclineJENNIFER CARLSONUniversity of Toronto, CanadaThis study uses in-depth interviews and participant observation with gun carriers in Michigan to examine how socioeconomic decline shapes the appropriation of guns by men of diverse class and race backgrounds. Gun carriers nostalgically referenced the decline of Mayberry America—a version of America characterized by the stable employment of male breadwinners and low crime rates. While men of color and poor and working-class men bear the material brunt of these transformations, this narrative of decline impacts how both privileged and marginalized men think of themselves as men because of the ideological centrality of breadwinning to American masculinity. Using Young’s (2003) “masculine protectionism” framework, I argue that against this backdrop of decline, men use guns not simply to instrumentally address the threat of crime but also to negotiate their own position within a context of socioeconomic decline by emphasizing their role as pro-tector.Keywords:masculinity; guns; self-defense; breadwinning; concealed carryAUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was presented as a paper at a panel on masculinities at the 2013 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting; I would like to thank James Messerschmidt for organizing this panel and providing, along with the other participants, crucial feedback as I developed the paper. I would also like to especially acknowledge Hae Yeon Choo, Jessica Cobb, Melanie Heath, Kimberly Hoang, Kate Mason, Neda Maghbouleh, and Nazanin Shahrokni for their sharp and generative feedback on earlier drafts as well as Joya Misra and the anonymous reviewers at Gender & Society. Their comments greatly improved the clarity and cogency of the argument. All errors are the author’s. This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jennifer Carlson, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J4, Canada; e-mail: [email protected]554799GASXXX10.1177/0891243214554799Gender & SocietyCarlson / Mourning Mayberryresearch-article2014
Carlson / MOURNING MAYBERRY 387“I don’t carry a gun to kill people, I carry a gun to keep from being killed! Pure, plain and simple! Shit, if this was Mayberry, I’d be alright! But it’s not.”—Frankie1“Neither one of [my parents] related to guns or the use of force. . . . They were just peaceful middle-class folks . . . [but] I carry for my protection and the protection of my loved ones.”—NateFrankie and Nate have different social backgrounds: Frankie, an African American, is a retired welder from Detroit; Nate is a white lawyer who lives in the suburbs. Yet, they also have much in common: Both carry guns on a regular basis, and both explain their turn to guns using a narra-tive of American decline, alluding to a lost “Mayberry” America that

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