Paramilitary actions and the resort to technology to monitor the border by two groups of citizens in Arizona question the use of the concept of vigilantism. Their practices aim to monitor and criticize, as experts, the surveillance tactics by federal authorities rather than to illegally resort to violence against those crossing the border without authorization. These two groups constitute and publicize knowledge on situations of migration and smuggling. They portray themselves as “security experts”. Nevertheless, such a development raises a number of issues regarding the audience and the credibility of such proclaimed expertise, as well as the toning down of ideological motives in these practices of surveillance. Finally, the constitution of this expertise seems to provide new ground for a critique of the federal state and its monopoly on law and order. All in all, playing the expert card seems to provide neo-vigilantism with an opportunity to reinvent itself, in the context of an increasingly militarized borderland.
Contemporary Transformations of Vigilante Practices in ArizonaBy Damien Simonneau