Security Journal

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 150–164 | Cite as

Normalizing racism: Vigilantism, border security and neo-racist assemblages

  • Joshua J KurzEmail author
  • Damon T Berry
Original Article


In this essay, we trace the relations among the early years of the US–Mexico borderlands after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), the role of racialist discourse in shaping the border and US immigration policy, and contemporary bordering and security environments. Our ultimate aim is to show how contemporary security knowledge and practices form an assemblage with racialist discourses and practices in the post-9/11 era. Current security thinking is in itself racialized and follows the contours of what Étienne Balibar has described as ‘neo-racism’ (1991), which has offered vigilante groups more credibility in matters of security and immigration than they previously enjoyed. In short, we will show how the racial–territorial nexus of ‘classical’ racism has come together with the security–economy nexus of securitization theory and practice to form a neo-racist assemblage that we identify at the heart of US–Mexico border security and migration debates.


immigration racism vigilante border patrols minutemen security 



The authors would like to thank Philip Armstrong and Reece Jones, as well as several anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay.


  1. Balibar, É. (1991) Is there a ‘neo-racism’? In: É. Balibar and I. Wallerstein (eds.) Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. New York: Verso Books, pp. 17–28.Google Scholar
  2. Bebout, L. (2011) Mythohistorical Interventions: The Chicano Movement and Its Legacies. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beirich, H. (2008) Lou Dobbs citing extremists, again. Southern Poverty Law Center 31 July,, accessed 3 March 2013.
  4. Chacon, J.A. and Davis, M. (2006) No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on The U.S.-Mexico Border. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.Google Scholar
  5. Coleman, M. (2007) A geopolitics of engagement: Neoliberalism, the war on terrorism, and the reconfiguration of U.S. immigration enforcement. Geopolitics 12 (4): 607–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coleman, M. (2005) U.S. statecraft and the U.S.-Mexico border as security/economy nexus. Political Geography 24 (2): 185–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coleman, M. and Kocher, A. (2011) Detention, deportation, devolution and immigrant incapacitation in the U.S., post-9/11. The Geographical Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 177 (3): 228–237.Google Scholar
  8. Crisp, J.E. (2010) Race, evolution, and the Texas republic: Toward a reinterpretation. In: J.G. Dawson III, (eds.) The Texas Military Experience: From the Revolution through World War II. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, pp. 32–48.Google Scholar
  9. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987) A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by B. Massumi. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  10. Doty, R.L. (2007) States of exception on the Mexico-U.S. border: Security, ‘decisions,’ and civilian border patrols. International Political Sociology 1 (2): 113–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doty, R.L. (2009) The Law into Their Own Hands: Immigration and the Politics of Exceptionalism. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dunn, T.J. (1996) The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992. Austin, TX: CMAS/UT.Google Scholar
  13. Foucault, M. (1977) Nietzsche, genealogy, history. In: D.F. Bouchard (ed.) Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 139–164.Google Scholar
  14. Gilbert, L. (2009) Immigration as local politics: Re-bordering immigration and multiculturalism through deterrence and incapacitation. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 33 (1): 26–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gilchrist, J. and Corsi, J.R. (2006) Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders. Los Angeles, CA: World Ahead Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Hernandez, K.L. (2010) Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Holthouse, D. (2005) Minutemen, other anti-immigrant militia groups stake out Arizona border.,2, accessed 17 April 2013.
  18. Horsman, R. (1981) Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Huntington, S. (1993) The clash of civilizations. Foreign Affairs 72 (3): 22–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huysmans, J. (2006) The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration and Asylum in the EU. New York: Routledge Press.Google Scholar
  21. Jacobsen, J. (2010) Can WN’s use the border issue to move the overton window? Occidental Dissident 1 July,, accessed 17 April 2013.
  22. Jones, R. (2012) Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel. New York: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  23. Korosec, T. (2003) Soldiers of misfortune. Dallas Observer 11 September,, accessed 15 April 2013.
  24. Kurz, J.J. (2012) Dis)locating control: Transmigration, precarity and the governmentality of control. Behemoth: A Journal on Civilization 5 (1): 30–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lyons, C. (1846) A war song for the Texas volunteers. In: W. M’Carty (ed.) National Songs, Ballads, and Other Patriotic Poetry Chiefly Related to the War of 1846. Philadelphia, PA: William M’Carty, pp. 11–16.Google Scholar
  26. MacDonald, K. (2013) The 1924 immigration restriction law redux. The Occidental Observer: White Identity, Interests, and Culture 18 February,, accessed 6 March 2013.
  27. MacDonald, K. (1998) Jewish involvement in shaping American immigration policy, 1881–1965: A historical review. Population and Environment 19 (4): 295–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mezzadra, S. and Neilson, B. (2013) Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nevins, J. (2002) Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the ‘Illegal Alien’ and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. New York: Routledge Press.Google Scholar
  30. O’Neill, J.E. and Corsi, J.R. (2004) Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out against John Kerry. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Pollack, A. (2005) 2 illegal immigrants win Arizona ranch in court. New York Times 19 August., accessed 17 April 2013.
  32. Sassen, S. (2006) Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Spiro, J. (2009) Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant. Lebanon: University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  34. Stern, A.M. (2005) Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Stoddard, L. (1922) The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy. New York: Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  36. Tobias, G. and Foxman, A. (2003) Border disputes: Armed vigilantes in Arizona. Anti-Defamation League 6 March,, accessed 2013.
  37. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. (1848), accessed 15 April 2013.
  38. Walker, C.J. (2007) Border vigilantism and comprehensive immigration reform. Harvard Latino Law Review 10: 135–174.Google Scholar
  39. Whiting, D. (2012) Whiting: ‘White advocate’ teaches at Cal State Long Beach. Orange County Register 15 October,, accessed 1 November 2013.

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceGlobal Studies Programme, National University of Singapore,SingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Religious Studies DepartmentSt. Lawrence UniversityCantonUSA

Personalised recommendations