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Waiting for Jose: The Minutemen's Pursuit of America

Overview

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 ...

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Waiting for Jose: The Minutemen's Pursuit of America

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Overview

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 with loose triggers, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of a 2013 Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association

"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

"This fascinating study is an honest, nuanced, and intimate look at not so much a movement but the people who make it happen. Shapira offers enough sociological theory to appeal to sociologists, but his stories of the Minutemen make this work appealing to all who want to understand the movement and immigration issues in general."Library Journal

"Regardless of one's political leanings, this is a promising, accessible book by a first-time academic author who describes the Minutemen he finds as, at heart, the detritus of lost wars and people who are 'afraid of America turning into Mexico.'"—Lee Maril, Times Higher Education

"Applying basic principles of ethnographic research, Shapira was interested not so much in what the Minutemen had to say, but what they did and why. In describing, what they wear, what they carry, and how they spend their time, his book has the kind of authenticity that comes from painstaking observation. You can't phone it in. You have to go."—Julia Ann Grimm, Santa Fe New Mexican

"Deeply insightful. . . . Reading Waiting for Jose to learn about the mythic Minuteman movement doesn't simply satisfy the sociological curiosity of comprehending anti-immigrant warriors whose heyday may soon be coming to a close. It's also instructive in helping us realize that immigrants are not the only ones finding it difficult to 'assimilate' themselves to a very different America than the one many of us grew up in."—Esther Cepeda, Anchorage Daily News

"Although the book will be of specific interest to those with an interest in migration, security, social movements, and masculinities, it invites a much broader readership. Its narrative style and uncomplicated prose make it accessible to a wider public. This, coupled with its accessible length and topical nature, makes it an ideal text for teaching at any level. Undergraduates and graduate students alike will find this a readable, refreshing, and insightful work."—Maryann Bylander, Journal on Migration and Human Security

"Shapira, an ethnographer, writes with sensitivity and professional detachment."—John Paul Rathbone, Financial Times

"Harel Shapira has crafted a fascinating and insightful account of the complex practices of civic identity in contemporary US society. In all, Waiting for Jose represents a significant contribution to current scholarship on social movements, border rhetorics, and the formation of the US civic imaginary."—D. Robert DeChaine, International Review of Modern Sociology

"Shapira explores the Minutemen's varied motivations exceptionally well, even noting the organization's internal conflicts. His sociological explanations are relevant and help to interpret the Minutemen's culture. . . . Waiting for Jose provides a unique vantage point of individuals experiencing a loss of place in an ever-increasing diverse America."—Leah N. Diaz, Contemporary Rural Social Work

From the Publisher

"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

"This fascinating study is an honest, nuanced, and intimate look at not so much a movement but the people who make it happen. Shapira offers enough sociological theory to appeal to sociologists, but his stories of the Minutemen make this work appealing to all who want to understand the movement and immigration issues in general."--Library Journal

"Regardless of one's political leanings, this is a promising, accessible book by a first-time academic author who describes the Minutemen he finds as, at heart, the detritus of lost wars and people who are 'afraid of America turning into Mexico.'"--Lee Maril, Times Higher Education

"Applying basic principles of ethnographic research, Shapira was interested not so much in what the Minutemen had to say, but what they did and why. In describing, what they wear, what they carry, and how they spend their time, his book has the kind of authenticity that comes from painstaking observation. You can't phone it in. You have to go."--Julia Ann Grimm, Santa Fe New Mexican

"Deeply insightful. . . . Reading Waiting for Jose to learn about the mythic Minuteman movement doesn't simply satisfy the sociological curiosity of comprehending anti-immigrant warriors whose heyday may soon be coming to a close. It's also instructive in helping us realize that immigrants are not the only ones finding it difficult to 'assimilate' themselves to a very different America than the one many of us grew up in."--Esther Cepeda, Anchorage Daily News

Library Journal
Immigration reform is perhaps one of the most polarizing political issues today, and the role of the Minuteman Project, the citizen group patrolling the U.S. border in Arizona, anchors one of the poles. The key to understanding the Minutemen, according to Shapira (sociology, Univ. of Texas, Austin), is not found in any ideology but in discovering individual motivations. Shapira spent three years camping and patrolling with these men and women in an attempt to discover what would lead someone to give up weeks of their life to camp in the desert to monitor the border. What he discovers is not a group of vigilantes and racists as popularly depicted in news media (though such views certainly exist with some), but a group of mostly ex-military men looking to reclaim a vision of America and a meaning for their lives such as they had when they were soldiering. VERDICT This fascinating study is an honest, nuanced, and intimate look at not so much a movement but the people who make it happen. Shapira offers enough sociological theory to appeal to sociologists, but his stories of the Minutemen make this work appealing to all who want to understand the movement and immigration issues in general.—Michael C. Miller, Austin P.L. & Austin History Ctr., TX
Kirkus Reviews
A blend of sociology and journalism informs this account of time spent among the self-professed guardians of the U.S.-Mexico border. As Shapira (Sociology/Univ. of Texas) recounts, the Minuteman movement has its origins in several events and forces, notably 9/11 and the widespread sense that the border was porous, unsecured and swarming with enemies of America. Into this stepped the central character of Shapira's piece, Chris Simcox, who retreated into the Arizona desert following 9/11 and, by his chronicle, was accosted by swarms of narcotraficantes and coyotes who left him with the conviction that he needed to found "a citizen's group whose aim would be to protect the borders of the United States from illegal invasion." Thus born of crisis, the Minuteman movement grew, though its numbers were always much smaller than the noise it made. Shapira argues that it is a mistake to view the movement as an ideological outgrowth of the right wing, even though most of its members would probably self-identify with the tea party or other rightist outliers; instead, he suggests, it is an expression of populism, if a vigilantist one. If its members have a commonality, it is that most of them are old: "It is not their ideology that leads them to establish their camp," he writes, "it is their age." Shapira, who spent considerable time in those desert camps along the Arizona border, where Minutemen sat in lawn chairs with rifles to hold back the tide, notes that the movement has disintegrated as Simcox moved to the tony town of Scottsdale, married well and ran for political office, tacking to the right of John McCain on the immigration issue--and bewildering his followers by the bald fact that "he is no longer a Minuteman." A valuable look at the birth of a populist paramilitary formation, one whose opponents may not dismiss so easily after reading this evenhanded book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691152158
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Harel Shapira is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Table of Contents

The Minutemen Chain of Command viii
Acknowledgments xi
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
Notes 163
Works Cited 171
Index 175

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