They live in the suburbs of Tennessee and Indiana. They fought in Vietnam and Desert Storm. They speak about an older, better America, an America that once was, and is no more. And for the past decade, they have come to the U.S. / Mexico border to hunt for illegal immigrants. Who are the Minutemen? Patriots? Racists? Vigilantes?
Harel Shapira lived with the Minutemen and patrolled the border with them, seeking neither to condemn nor praise them, but to understand who they are and what they do. Challenging simplistic depictions of these men as right-wing fanatics quick on the trigger, Shapira discovers a group of men who long for community and embrace the principles of civic engagement. Yet these desires and convictions have led them to a troubling place.
Shapira takes you to that place--a stretch of desert in southern Arizona, where he reveals that what draws these men to the border is not simply racism or anti-immigrant sentiments, but a chance to relive a sense of meaning and purpose rooted in an older life of soldiering. They come to the border not only in search of illegal immigrants, but of lost identities and experiences.
Harel Shapira is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin.
"A valuable look at the birth of a populist paramilitary formation, one whose opponents may not dismiss so easily after reading this evenhanded book."--Kirkus Reviews
"Grab your night-vision goggles and your thermal scopes, and join Shapira as he sits with the Minutemen along the jagged Arizona-Mexico border. As the men wait for a José that might never come and yearn together for an America that is long gone--or perhaps, never was--we learn about the dispositions and desires of a group of people that has been consistently misunderstood and misrepresented. A captivating, theoretically inspired narrative in a refreshingly new sociological voice. This is ethnography at its best."--Javier Auyero, author of Patients of the State
"Waiting for José is an empathetic and beautifully written ethnography. It brings into sociological focus the stories of Americans whose patriotism and search for meaningful lives brings them to mount voluntary patrols against illegal immigrants on the U.S. / Mexico border. Media portrayals of these Minutemen are often mere cartoons; Harel Shapira fills out both the human picture and its larger social implications."--Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science
"This is a courageous book. Harel Shapira put himself in danger to dig out the story of the Minutemen; he shows a kind of ethical courage as well, by probing sympathetically their thoughts and feelings. His book reveals an 'Other America' whose disappointments and anger the rest of us need to understand. He helps us do this in prose worthy of George Orwell."--Richard Sennett, author of The Corrosion of Character
Table of Contents:
The Minutemen Chain of Command viii
Preface: A Place on the Border xv
Introduction: All Quiet on the Southern Front 1
Chapter 1: American Dreams 27
Chapter 2: Camp Vigilance 39
Chapter 3: Gordon and His Guns 73
Chapter 4: Scenes from the Border 97
Chapter 5: Encounters 125
Conclusion: Belonging in America 145
Appendix: A Note on Methodology 153
Works Cited 171