Department of Sociology

Waiting for José: The Minutemen's Pursuit of America


Princeton University Press, 2013 

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 US/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. 

Waiting for Jose by SaphiraShapira 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.


"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 José 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

Prince University Press website

Source: Princeton University Press

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