Jonas Stark Johnson

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Johns Hopkins U.

Grant number

Gr. 10692

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Johnson, Jonas (Johns Hopkins U.) "The Gunsmith: Curation and Technologies in America’s Gun Cultures"

Allusions to America’s “gun culture” litter colloquial and scholarly explanations for the exceptional rate of civilian firearms ownership and the tragic rate of gun-related mortality in the United States. This research aims to examine the assemblage of militarized desires, social anxieties, and political aspirations that the gun mediates in American society through gunsmiths: artisans who manufacture, restore, and customize firearms. Through 18 months of participant observation in gunsmithing trades colleges in rural North Carolina, this research will investigate how apprentice gunsmiths grow into their role as stewards of civilian firearms technology and learn to cultivate the political ideologies embedded within the spaces of gun manufacture. At the technical level, these artisans replicate specialized eras of military-industrial expertise and tinker with contemporary aesthetic, technical, and legal innovations in order to materially reproduce (and contest) notions of freedom, ethics, and political autonomy. At the level of domestic social reproduction, gunsmiths restore heirlooms that mediate intergenerational relationships, refracting the changing gendered, racial, and socioeconomic conditions of rural American life. This study proposes that gunsmiths’ role in curating a politicized sociohistorical narrative through craft production make this subculture an ideal site for bringing anthropological inquiry to bear on the often elusive gun culture concept.