This is an excerpt from a study done about gun violence in the Balkans. I found it largely by accident and it was insightful, enjoyable reading. Most academic writing is barely penetrable. This is lively and interesting. An academic dealing with gun issues, in particular criminal justice, will find this interesting reading if only for the summary of Eastern European gun laws in the appendix. It is a very fine example of social science research.
From the Introduction:
This study is based on the premise that culture is not static but is constantly evolving and changing and it is not
just a product of past traditions but develops and is reinterpreted as society changes. This report will focus on
‘culture’ to mean a society’s particular set of values, norms – both social and legal – and meanings that render
an action or thought acceptable and legitimate. Guns are not separable from the cultural environment in which
they are acting and this means that the prevailing norms and values that render certain gun ownership and use
acceptable must be understood within a geographical, political, historical and socio-economic context. ‘Gun
culture’ lacks an established definition and is subject to continued debate, so this report will take ‘gun culture’
to be the cultural acceptance of gun ownership in situations where the principal motivation or justification for
it is not for utilitarian or economic reasons but because their society has a set of values and norms that deem
it acceptable behaviour. A simple example would be when a man carries a gun, primarily not for hunting or for
protection, but because his ‘culture’ interprets his behaviour as a sign of masculinity and status.
From later in the same study:
Notions of anarchy strongly influenced 18th and 19th century folklore. Tales abound about the revolutionary
movements of the Balkan Christians such as, the formation of rebel groups, dangerous trips to remote towns to
buy guns and ammunition, heroes being chased by the enemy or engaged in long battles. The ending usually
either laments the tragic deaths of the heroes or celebrates victory over the Turkish forces. Typically these
heroic epics are exaggerated tales about the beauty, physical strength, honour and courage of the heroes. They
are about men trying to prove their worthiness to be the leader of a haidouk (rebel) group, showing off their
marksmanship, horse riding and sword fighting skills. People glorified haidouks as saviours who could protect
them from attacks by the Turks or bandits. Stories and songs about the haidouk recount how the groups acquired
weapons, the struggles for leadership and the battles they fought. They often describe haidouk everyday life,
making contrasts between their joyful, romantic daily routines and the cold winters when the haidouks hid their
guns and returned to their homes.
Here is the link to the full pdf file, so you can read the study in its entirety – (To my shock, after careful reading I discovered I was writing about two different studies – the one quoted is list first and the other on domestic violence is afterwards. They are both wonderful. JP)
Here is a link to the web site where I found the study, mappinggunculture.