Speaker Series | Caroline Light “A Good Woman With a Gun: U.S. Mythologies of Race, Gender, and Self-Defense”


Arts Building W-215, 853 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 0G5, CA

Dr. Caroline Light, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer, Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality, Harvard University

Abstract: What accounts for the rhetorical power of the recurring trope of the self-possessed, heroic, and implicitly white “good woman with a gun,” and against whom is she presumed to defend herself? This talk will explore some of the early iconography by which the armed white woman became a symbol of virtuous and vulnerable nationhood while addressing the intersecting racial and gender logics that contributed to a national ideal of what historian Barbara Cutter calls “innocent violence” in the name of collective self-defense.

Bio: Caroline Light is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Harvard. She has a doctorate in history, and her work explores the ways in which race, gender, and region shape collective (mis)memory and archival silence. Her first book, That Pride of Race and Character: the Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South (NYU Press, 2014) discusses how gendered and racialized performances of elite, white cultural capital served as a critical mode of survival for a racially liminal community of southerners. Her recent book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense (Beacon Press, 2017) tracks the history of lethal self-defense in the U.S., from the duty to retreat to the “shoot first, ask questions later” ethos that prevails in many jurisdictions today.

Public Lecture: Thursday, January 10th, 2019: 4:00pm, Arts W-215
Seminar (registration required): Friday, January 11th, 2019: 9:00 am to 11:00am, Arts W-220

Prof. Jason Opal, Chair History and Classical Studies McGill University
Prof. Charmaine A. Nelson, Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University
Prof. Alanna Thain, Director, IGSF, McGill University