Monday, April 23, 2007

The War at Home: Guns and the Policing of the Subaltern Body

Guns and “gun rights laws” have a coterminous and nearly forgotten history in the Americas. When white or Criollo elites were the “minority,” guns were used to control enslaved bodies which were (depending where you were in the Americas) black, mulatto, Amerindian, or some combination of these or other taxonomies used to describe the enslaved majority.

Policing the enslaved body and quelling slave insurrections were part of the fiber and logic of a racism that created both the taxonomies of race and the pseudo-science that legitimated its various guises in order to sustain the emergent national economies. Whether they were called “pattyrollers” or “verdugos,” slave catchers and armed white militias protected the slave-owners’ lands from insurgent bodies on the plantation and beyond as property to be returned if any slave managed to escape.

So it is without irony, or the hint of satire, that we see the latest “insurgents” in the leaked National Rifle Association’s graphic novella (alert thanks to and the always amazing Tex[t] Mex blog). The subaltern bodies are constructed anew as threats to the now white majority, necessary targets of the fearless head-of-household dads who must protect this perverted justice a la Michael Douglass in Falling Down.