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The Insecure American

How We Got Here and What We Should Do About It

Hugh Gusterson (Editor), Catherine Besteman (Editor), Barbara Ehrenreich (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 392 pages
ISBN: 9780520259713
November 2009
$34.95, £27.00
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Americans are feeling insecure. They are retreating to gated communities in record numbers, fearing for their jobs and their 401(k)s, nervous about their health insurance and their debt levels, worrying about terrorist attacks and immigrants. In this innovative volume, editors Hugh Gusterson and Catherine Besteman gather essays from nineteen leading ethnographers to create a unique portrait of an anxious country and to furnish valuable insights into the nation's possible future. With an incisive foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich, the contributors draw on their deep knowledge of different facets of American life to map the impact of the new economy, the “war on terror,” the “war on drugs,” racial resentments, a fraying safety net, undocumented immigration, a health care system in crisis, and much more. In laying out a range of views on the forces that unsettle us, The Insecure American demonstrates the singular power of an anthropological perspective for grasping the impact of corporate profit on democratic life, charting the links between policy and vulnerability, and envisioning alternatives to life as an insecure American.
Foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich

Introduction Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson

Part One Fortress America

1. A nation of Gated Communities
Setha M. Low

2.Warmaking as the AmericanWay of life
Catherine Lutz

3. Republic of fear: The rise of Punitive Governance in America
Roger N. Lancaster

Part Two The New Economy

4. Neoliberalism, or The Bureaucratization of the World
David Graeber

5.The Age of Wal-Mart
Jane L. Collins

6. Deindustrializing Chicago: A Daughter’s story
Christine J.Walley

7. Racism, risk, and the new Color of Dirty Jobs
Lee D. Baker

Part Three Insecurity as a Profit Center

8. Normal Insecurities, Healthy Insecurities
Joseph Dumit

9. Cultivating Insecurity: How Marketers Are Commercializing Childhood
Juliet B. Schor

Part Four The Most Vulnerable

10. Uneasy street
T.M. Luhrmann

11. Body and soul: Profits from Poverty

12. Useless suffering: The War on Homeless Drug Addicts
Philippe Bourgois

13.Walling out Immigrants
Peter Kwong

Part Five Insecurity and Terror

14. Compounding Insecurity:What the neocon Core reveals about America today
Janine R.Wedel

15. Deploying law as aWeapon in America’sWar on terror
Susan F. Hirsch

Part Six Insecurities of Body and Spirit

16. Death and Dying in Anxious America
Nancy Scheper-Hughes

17. Get religion
Susan Harding

List of Contributors
Hugh Gusterson is Professor of Anthropology at George Mason University. He is the author of Nuclear Rites and coeditor (with Besteman) of Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong, both from UC Press. Catherine Besteman is Professor of Anthropology at Colby College and the author of Transforming Capetown (UC Press).
“Highly recommended.”—A. C. Moblety Choice
"The Insecure American turned out to be a revelation—by turns alarming, depressing and laugh-out-loud amusing."—Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

“During the last half century, America morphed almost seamlessly from 'the Age of Anxiety' into 'the Age of Insecurity'. The threat of nuclear annihilation hovered ominously as a Damoclean sword, and while there are residues—that anxiety has been substantially replaced by a gnawing sense of more local insecurity—from employment and healthcare uncertainty, to expanding gated communities and food-supply woes. This is as rich a collection as one can find that provides compelling accounts for how and why this has happened.”—Troy Duster, Director of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge at NYU

"If ever the United States was a country of shared prosperity, it no longer answers to that description. The consequences for American families, particularly those at the bottom of the social structure, but increasingly in the middle class as well, have been devastating to their pocketbooks, their confidence, and the hope that their children will be able to make it in the world they are inheriting. This distinguished group of anthropologists trains an ethnographic lens on the impact of growing insecurity on the social fabric of the nation. Concerned citizens, fellow social scientists, students, and policy makers should pay attention to their message."—Katherine Newman, Princeton University, co-author of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America

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