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Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez Paperback – October 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Howard Campbell is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the co-editor of the University of Texas Press Inter-America Series.

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Product Details

  • Series: Drug War Zone Frontline Dispatches From The Streets of El Paso to Juarez
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 3rd edition (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029272179X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292721791
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mark L. on November 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The US Mexico Border is one of the most unique among anthropological spaces. Apart from being bi-national, it is enormously complex in the variety and interplay of cultures and social classes. The area, now affected by a drug war in Mexico, remains "safe" on the US side and anarchic on the Mexcian side. Yet the communities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez are deeply intertwined and inextricable. In this context, the author delves into the sub-cultures and groups that are part of the drug war. He interviews police officers, drug dealers, border patrol agents and a host of social actors who play out this complex and dangerous drama. The author spends a great deal of time framing the border context and then lets his subjects tell their stories. For those who want to see good anthropology in action, this is a great example. For others, who just want to try to understand what is going on in the trenches of the drug war, the book is indispensible.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Alesia Zagara on April 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Like the oral historian Studs Terkel, Howard Campbell-a professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso- aims to "record the voices of the common workers". The common workers in this case are all intimately connected -as drug traffickers, law enforcement officials and innocent bystanders - to the drug trade between Mexico and the United States. By anchoring his work in both the US city of El Paso and the Mexican city of Juarez, Campbell is able to present lengthy, firsthand accounts of life on both sides of this violent, otherworldly "drug war zone".
Few previous works have explored the complex dynamics and consequences of cross-border drug trafficking as absorbingly as this book. Among the fascinating characters we meet are a self-proclaimed anarchist dealer who cites Margaret Mead in support of his belief that drugs should be legalized; a historian who recites the legend of La Nacha, who outwitted her rivals to become one of the most powerful drug dealers on the US-Mexico border; an innocent Lebanese Mexican who sold scuba diving gear to ambitious drug smugglers; and a "dyed-in-the-wool Republican" from Texas who used to work for the border patrol but now believes that the drug war is futile. Campbell also seeks to familiarize readers with the complex vocabulary and culture of the drug trade. We learn that, in Mexico, territories controlled by specific drug cartels are known as "plazas", while "tienditas" are the shops, privates homes, or street-vendor outlets where drugs are sold. "Narcocorridos' are the popular ballads written about the lives of drug traffickers and "narco-mantas" are the frightening placards which display messages from drug cartels in publics places.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
The book is extremely interesting and approaches the issues surrounding the drug war in the border area from a very informative perspective. The stories, many times, are as interesting as anything Hollywood can produce but have the added value of sharing real life experiences. It was a difficult book to read because it makes you face the harsh economic and social realities of many residents of these border towns, but it is very difficult to put the book down. To me, the most fascinating part of this book is the fact that the complicity, or at the very least lack of real attempts to stop the drug trade, of the Mexican and American authorities is openly stated and demonstrated throughout the book. It is something that the general population here in the US has yet to come to accept or believe and makes it difficult for many American's to analyze the impacts of the drug war on both sides of the borders.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By TB Mitch on February 9, 2010
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A very detailed, gritty look at the ongoing "war" against drugs that takes place primarily on the U.S. Mexico border. The strength of this book most certainly lies in its ability to tell the story from multiple points of view that come from a myriad of players in the drug trafficking realm. Each individual story helps to shed light on the war on drugs in a different way, but in the end, the whole picture is illuminated and presented to the reader in astounding clarity. Every individual involved offers a different perspective or opinion; and when they come together, they offer one of the most comprehensive, complete descriptions available. This book is required reading to anyone, such as myself, who has an insatiable curiosity about the political, criminal, and personal aspects of drug trafficking. Well done Dr. Campbell!
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Format: Paperback
DRUG WAR ZONE: FRONTLINE DISPATCHES FROM THE STREETS OF EL PASO AND JUAREZ is based on access to the drug smuggling world of the border and studies the drug war through the lives of direct participants. Half the book consists of oral histories from drug traffickers, the other from law enforcement officials. The detail and personal 'insider' viewpoints from both sides make this a 'must' for any library at the college level studying border issues in general and drug law enforcement in particular.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Bird on April 27, 2013
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I like that each chapter is written by the person being interviewed. El Paso and Juarez are a different world.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Scott on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Campbell, Howard. Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009. vi, 310.

Howard Campbell's Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez is an ethnographic study which offers multiple points of view that elucidate the complexity of America's "War on Drugs" in relation to narcotics trafficking and violence on the U.S.-Mexico border. Presenting an eclectic array of voices, Campbell illustrates and connects the experiences and agendas of narcotics traffickers and addicts, law enforcement and military officials, and civil participants in various segments of society. Revealing the convergences and divergences between these diverse social groups, Campbell defines the Drug War Zone (DWZ) as a space of collusion and contestation in which drug traffickers and law enforcement conflict, connect, intersect, and interact globally and economically. He writes that the DWZ "is the transnational, fluid cultural space in which contending forces battle over the meaning, value, and control of drugs"(6). Within this space, Campbell brings out the hybridity within the "drug-antidrug" dichotomy by illuminating government officials' complicity with narcotics traffickers, revealing the DWZ as a space in which the two polar opposites merge and become the other through economically motivated negotiation and resistance at both the global and regional-El Paso-Juárez-levels.

Drug War Zone evidences the fallacy of the "War on Drugs" by investigating the complicity between capitalism and narcotics trafficking. Using pseudonyms to represent his subjects, Campbell deconstructs the paradigms that justify U.S.
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