Drawing on work linking aesthetics, politics and the body, this workshop will study the 'popular culture of illegality': the music, visual culture and material culture that reflect and reinforce the socio-political authority of criminal organizations.
In contexts of urban marginality in both the Global South and North, criminal organizations have become increasingly powerful and institutionalized. As criminal leaders and gangs take on the functions and symbols of the state, such mafia-like organizations may evolve into extra-legal structures of rule and belonging. This workshop seeks to explore the aesthetics that legitimate and mediate these forms of informal sovereignty. To understand the reproduction of criminal authority, we should not only study informal sovereigns' use of violence and their provision of material services in socially excluded communities. We must also examine how imaginative, aesthetic practices are critical in normalizing and naturalizing their rule. This workshop will study the 'popular culture of illegality': the music, visual culture and material culture that reflect and reinforce the socio-political authority of criminal organizations. Drawing on work linking aesthetics, politics and the body, we seek to examine the emotional and ethical work that texts, sounds, performative practices and visual images do. Examples of the entanglement of criminal authority and popular culture include the relations between Naples' camorra and neomelodica music, between Mexican drugs cartels and narcocorridos, and between Brazilian gang leaders and baile funk. Through which aesthetic practices are people mobilized to accept and support criminal authority? How does the popular culture of illegality facilitate a form of governmentality performed both on and through the bodies of the urban poor? Given the territoriality of informal sovereignty, how are the spatial parameters of criminal authority mediated through popular culture representations?