Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gun plus person plus God

The recent story of an averted massacre at New Life Church in Colorado Springs made me think of Latour's famous discussion of guns in Pandora's Hope. Latour examined the dueling arguments that have often framed the left-right debate on gun control:
  • "Guns kill people"
  • "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
Neither frame is satisfactory, he says, because they locate agency entirely in a human or a nonhuman. Instead, he argues, we have to think in terms of a hybrid: gun plus person. The gun can't fire itself; the person can't kill as readily by herself; put the two together and you have a complex or assemblage that acts in a way that the individual components don't.

Latour's formulation gets interestingly complicated by the story of the volunteer guard, a former police officer who responded to the gunman -- who had over a thousand rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle -- and faced him down with a handgun. She credits the Holy Spirit for keeping her hands steady.
"I was praying to God that he direct me" in what to do in life, Assam said. "God made me strong."
Gun plus person plus God? You don't have to believe in God to think that this is an interesting phenomenon. Did the guard's faith in God cause her to act differently from how she would have acted without it? Clearly. What else gets folded into such assemblages?

Security Guard: 'God Guided Me And Protected Me' - Denver News Story - KMGH Denver

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1 comment:

Alan Rudy said...

Hi Clay:
In "On Recalling ANT" - when it was a lecture, at least - Latour said the following pertinent to your post.

"The whole theory of society is enmeshed into a much more complex struggle to define a psychology - an isolated subjectivity still able to comprehend the world out there; an epistemological question about what the world is like outside without human intervention; a political theory of how to keep the crowds in order without them intervening with passions and ruining social order; and finally a rather repressed but very present theology which is the only way to guarantee the differences and the connections between those domains of reality. It is this whole package that is in question.

The subject, the person, plus the object out there, the gun, plus the usually repressed theology, the god, are all here -- what's missing, as is so often the case, is a sense of the sociopolitical with which my discipline is so concerned. By these lights what we have here is actually a quite "modern" story, or so it might seem.