School of Social and Political Science

Joe Anderson

Job Title

PhD title: Armed Intimacy: In Pursuit of Security and Self with Gun Rights Activists in Southern California

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My thesis is based on a period of ethnographic research with gun owners in San Diego, California. This particularly centred around two gun rights activist communities. One made up of traditionally minded, predominantly white, male gun owners, and the other a group of transgender shooters. The thesis looks at how gendered and racial dynamics/roles factor in to how Americans live with and through firearms. I try to tease out how specific embodied dispositions and perceptual schema are developed through the practices associated with gun use - training at the shooting range, carrying a gun in public, and engaging in political activism to defend the right to own guns.

I show that it is through fantasies of violence that gun owners define a sense of political agency and personal safety within their bodies. This is particularly key for my transgender interlocutors who feel they need the added protection of a firearm while in the process of transition to fight discrimination and abuse. I think that this research can help to explain both why guns have become such hotly contested objects within America, but also how subjective relationships between guns and humans can lead to new ways of normalising violence against those who are perceived as “other” in society.


The University of Edinburgh (2011 – 2015): First Class MA Social Anthropology

The University of California San Diego (2013-2014) - Socio/cultural Anthropology

The University of Edinburgh (2015 - 2016) - Distinction; Master of Science by Research

The University of Edinburgh (2016 - Present) - PhD Social Anthropology


Anderson, J. 2018. "We Need to Talk About Gun Violence; Reflections on Terminology and Contexts of Violence, Somatosphere.

Anderson, J. 2017. "Gun Owners, Ethics, and the Problem fo Evil: a response to the Las Vegas shooting", Hau; Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7 (3), (

Anderson, J. 2016. "Book Review: Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, The Pentagon and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology by David H. Price", LSE Review of Books. (…)

Anderson, J. 2015. "An Anthropology of US Gun Culture; The Productive Tension Between Ideology and Embodiment”, Groundings Ancients Journal, 3. (Prize for Best Article in Journal)


“Roundtable discussion: Anthropological Approaches to Gun Violence”, Organiser and panellist at the 2018 American Anthropological Association annual conference in San Jose

“Hybrids, Monsters, and Meta-humans; how guns become aspects of the self”, Presenter at the 2018 American Anthropological Association annual conference in San Jose.

“Targeting Gender; Transgender Shooters and the Production of Safe Bodies in California”, Presenter at the 2017 University of Edinburgh Gendered Bodies Symposium

“A Home on the Range: Embodiment, Gender, and Self-defence among Gun Owners in San Diego”, Presenter at the 2017 UCSD Psychological-Medical Anthropology Seminar

"Pulling the Trigger: The American Gun Violence Epidemic", Presenter at the 2014 UCSD Horizons of Global Health Conference

Knowledge Exchange and Impact

Podcast, “Under Fire”, guest on a half hour podcast that focused on how my research could help to contribute to solutions to gun violence by understanding gun owners

Internship with the Scottish Government, Department of Tourism and Culture June 2018 – September 2019, Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership, Social Tourism


Gun Violence and Social Pathology - Co-Instructor and course designer with Professor Janis Jenkins; University of California San Diego, Undergraduate Seminar, Spring Quarter 2017

Empires - Tutor, Undergraduate Course in Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh, 2017

Social Anthropology 1B: Anthropology Matters - Tutor, Undergraduate Course in Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh, 2018, 2019

Title, Memberships and Affiliations

UCSD Gun Violence Intervention Group - A group that aims to investigate realistic solutions to gun violence in America. Clinton Global Initiative funded society associated with the University of California San Diego Global Health Programme.

Research interests

Research interests

Gun Culture, Gun Ownership, Embodiment and the anthropology of the body, California, National Belonging, San Diego, Phenomenology, United States, America, Anthropology of the United States, ethnography, Anthropology of ethics, gender

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