Back to America


Back to America

Identity, Political Culture, and the Tea Party Movement

William H. Westermeyer

Anthropology of Contemporary North America Series

234 pages
1 table, index


November 2019


$70.00 Add to Cart

November 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

November 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

November 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Back to America is an ethnography of local activist groups within the Tea Party, one of the most important recent political movements to emerge in the United States and one that continues to influence American politics. Though often viewed as the brainchild of conservative billionaires and Fox News, the success of the Tea Party movement was as much, if not more, the result of everyday activists at the grassroots level. William H. Westermeyer traces how local Tea Party groups (LTPGs) create submerged spaces where participants fashion action-oriented collective and personal political identities forged in the context of cultural or figured worlds. These figured worlds allow people to establish meaningful links between their own lives and concerns, on the one hand, and the movement’s goals and narratives, on the other. Collectively, the production and circulation of the figured worlds within LTPGs provide the basis for subjectivities that often nurture political activism.

Westermeyer reveals that LTPGs are vibrant and independent local organizations that, while constantly drawing on nationally disseminated cultural images and discourses, are far from simple agents of the larger organizations and the media. Back to America offers a welcome anthropological approach to this important social movement and to our understanding of grassroots political activism writ large.

Author Bio

William H. Westermeyer is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Carolina, Aiken.


“The definitive ethnographic account of Tea Party activism, illuminating the links between the lived experiences of local Tea Party groups, conservative elites, and right-wing media. A must-read for anyone trying to understand right-wing populism today!”—Jeffrey S. Juris, associate professor of anthropology at Northeastern University

“Filled with fascinating examples of Tea Party members explaining the personal meanings of national conservative discourses. . . . There are important implications of this study for social movements across the political spectrum.”—Claudia Strauss, professor of anthropology at Pitzer College

“An extraordinary, profound, enduringly important, and lucidly written anthropology that shows how people in the American South fashion identities as Tea Party activists out of an expedient and unmatched relationship to national conservative media.”—Peter Hervik, associate professor of anthropology at Aalborg University

“Do you want to understand how the Tea Party movement works? Read Back to America. . . .  Anthropologist William Westermeyer, drawing on his field-based research in the American South, shows us the interrelated grassroots, media, and elite nature of the Tea Party. Westermeyer analyzes how Tea Party members utilize various cultural resources to communicate their identity and their claims, and how their messages are amplified on the state and national level. Back to America will show you how the Tea Party works as a social movement.”—Charles Price, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill


Table of Contents

Introduction: The Tea Party Movement as Cultural Politics
1. Patriots: Fashioning a Figured World of Tea Party Politics
2. Troubles: Making Personal Meaning in the Tea Party Movement
3. Plantation Politics: Race in the Figured World of the Tea Party
4. Fellowship: Local Tea Party Groups as Communities of Political Practice
5. Trickle-Up Politics: Local Tea Party Groups as Movement Actors in Local Politics
Conclusion: Political Anthropology of U.S. Right-Wing Politics

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