The Righteous and the Profane: Performing a Punk Solidarity in Mexico City

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Tatro, Kelley


Meintjes, Louise

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Mexico City's punk scene has a notorious reputation, based on the supposedly angry, rude, and destructive behavior of its integrants. Certainly, participants in the punk scene value intense affects, aesthetics, and interpersonal exchange, but see them as means to amplify their political consciousness, their attempts to create alternative social networks. In this dissertation thesis, based on an extended period of ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico City's punk scene, I investigate the co-constitution of the aesthetic and political for participants of the punk scene and ask what "the political" might entail for the city's marginalized punk youth. In pursuing a local punk aesthetics that is both righteous and profane, to borrow descriptive terminology from Dick Hebdige, I argue for close formal analysis of musical, artistic, and other social performance. I employ formal analysis to evaluate the flourishing of punk in the context of "el DeFectuoso"--as residents name the hard-scrabble, global South metropolis of Mexico City--decades after punk's initial arrival in Mexico. Deluezian network theory and social movement theory more broadly help me argue for a politically constituted music "scene," created largely through U.S.-Mexico cross-border relations, without fixing its boundaries or stultifying its politics. Additionally, I explore the affective dimensions of punk performance, the role of music in subjectivization, and the importance of the body trained intersubjectively for both listening and performing. It is at the points of convergence of these three approaches that I locate a punk aesthetics as at once a punk ethics, animated by an ideal of "direct action." Within chapters organized through broad themes like networks, violence, labor, and solidarity, I address topics from the harsh, hard-working vocal performances punks employ to the various anarchist currents that shape an always-tenuous, specifically Mexican punk solidarity, constituted through practices like street sing-alongs, the creation of alternative DIY networks of exchange, and fanzine writing and design. Within these routes of investigation, I elucidate the ways in which participants in Mexico City's punk scene use profanity and outrage in the performance of a righteous ethic that informs their struggles to maintain solidarity and make a difference, through an explicitly political social network that is nevertheless grounded in aesthetic experience.






Tatro, Kelley (2013). The Righteous and the Profane: Performing a Punk Solidarity in Mexico City. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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