‘We are now a nation of Minute-Men’: survivalist masculinity, fallout shelters and Cold War America

Bishop, Thomas (2015) ‘We are now a nation of Minute-Men’: survivalist masculinity, fallout shelters and Cold War America. In: Imagining the end: interdisciplinary perspectives on the apocalypse. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford. ISBN 1848883528, 9781848883529

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This chapter focuses on a right-wing militia group, ‘The Minutemen,’ who flourished in early
Cold War America as an evolving apocalyptic imagination became to influence perceptions of
masculinity.  Framed by a discourse of readiness to perform violence at a moment’s notice and a
rhetoric of perpetual apocalyptic fear, the Minutemen flourished between 1960 and 1967. For the
Minutemen, fallout shelters were integral to the theory and practice of Armageddon, representing a
spatial zone of male resistance that needed to be well-provisioned and defended against external

The focal point of this chapter will be the 1966 Minutemen conspiracy to blow up three pacifist
centres in New York State. I will illustrate how the phenomenon of fallout shelter preparation and
constant undercurrent of perpetual apocalyptic anxiety mobilised pockets of men across America. I
argue that a pattern emerged in which men ritualistically prepared for the rejection of their
community in the wake of a nuclear apocalypse in favour of individual militaristic family units or
collective bodies of like-minded individuals. Rearticulated in Rick Perlstein’s 2013 article in the
Nation as the origins of modern right wing survivalists, the Minutemen represented a sustained
cultural preoccupation with preparing for the end of the world. By focussing on the Minutemen’s
actions during this important episode, the paper will amplify the changing nature of American
masculinity in a society reconfigured by anxiety over nuclear apocalypse.

Keywords:Cold War, masculinity studies, Nuclear culture, United States
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V232 USA History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V147 Modern History 1950-1999
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:30262
Deposited On:05 Mar 2018 14:10

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