Professor Bernard Harcourt delivered a fascinating Chicago's Best Ideas Talk on April 5, 2006, entitled "Language of the Gun: A Semiotic for Law & Social Science." Professor Harcourt's talk was based on his recent book Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy and covered some fascinating, if often disturbing, data from interviews with incarcerated teens about their opinions about guns. Professor Harcourt analyzes the particular language the teens use to talk about guns and the associations their words have, and what the implications are for public policy. WARNING: while this talk is certainly worth your time, it does include some explicit language (as Harcourt repeats some of the comments the study participants made) and violent subject matter. This may not be work-appropriate and is almost certainly not appropriate for young children.
You'll benefit from looking at Professor Harcourt's slides along with the talk, as some of the charts are discussed in detail, and the opening photos bring the talk into even clearer focus.Download harcourt_language_of_the_gun.ppt. You can listen to the talk here. Instructions on listening to the podcast are here. The blurb for Professor Harcourt's talk is below the fold (the text of this is a bit explicit as well).
“If you’re out there and you don't have a strap, you're going to get killed.” “I had me two baby 9's. I fell in love with those. They look beautiful to me.” “I never got into guns besides selling them.” “I like to reload bullet shells.” “You feel powerful when you have a gun. You get respect.” “It's too much time to fuck with guns.” “Anybody can fight with a gun, anybody can pull a trigger. It takes somebody, like a real man, to fight somebody.” “I love guns. Hell yeah, I love guns. I love everything about a gun.”
Based on a fascinating set of interviews conducted at the Catalina Mountain School, a juvenile prison for boys aged 12 to 17, Professor Harcourt explores the symbolic dimensions of guns and gun carrying among male youths. In the process, he offers a vision of how semiotics can redraw the traditional relationship between law, social science, and public policy.