Resistance Panel

Saturday, April 14, 10:45am
Room 1145
Vincent Rone, chair

"Leisure Class Gangster: Exaggerated Conspicuous Consumption In Gangster Rap"

Can Aksoy, English
University of California, Santa Barbara

This paper explores a blunt thematic adherence in the gangster rap narrative of status acquisition to the materialist theories of Thornstein Veblen's Conspicuous Consumption. In doing so, it asserts that these materialist themes receive this exaggerated treatment due to a crisis derived from class-conscious social risk that gangster rappers participate in. To achieve these goals, my work surveys a selection of contemporary gangster rap to show how its representation of a rapper's materialist quest for social standing can be divided into stages keyed to aspects of Veblen's theory. Chronologically first, the rapper often retrospectively describes a competitively themed danger of his impoverished hood, expressing the influence of Veblen's assertion that those with the fiscal strength to openly waste set the "norms of reputability" incumbent upon all classes. Secondly, the rapper often triumphantly represents a transition from his hood to Veblen's world of wasteful and "specialized consumption of [leisure class] goods." Lastly, having finally earned the "pecuniary strength" to spend wastefully, the rapper explores a social alienation Veblen asserts is endemic to the wasteful pageantry of the leisure class. This analysis reveals how the blunt and deliberate presentation of each of these themes reflects an anxiety over the fragility of the rapper's leisure class life and their awareness of the risk of a possible return to poverty. Therefore, this paper concludes by asserting that the bluntness and predictability of the gangster rap narrative's adherence to consumptive themes allows the genre to be transformed and resold in alternative types of hip hop.

"Sounds from the Belly of the Beast: Rampart Police (Dis)order and the Psycho Realm Blues"

Steven Osuna, Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

On September 5th, 2010 Manuel Jamines Xum, a Guatemalan immigrant and father of three, was shot twice in the head by a Los Angeles Police Officer. This murder took place a few blocks away from the Rampart Community Police Station in the Westlake-Pico Union District of Los Angeles. Jamines's death was not an isolated incident, but rather an instance of the regular and rampant deadly use of force by the LAPD on working class Latina/o immigrants. The Rampart Division and its Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums anti-gang unit (CRASH) gained notoriety during the mid 1990s for its corruption charges and excessive use of force. As "street reporters" The Psycho Realm, a Hip-Hop group who emerged during this era, has documented this blatant repression against this community through their beats and rhymes. The hip-hop duo, Jack Gonzalez (aka Jacken) and Gustavo Gonzalez (aka Duke), were raised in the Pico-Union District and witnessed the contradictions of racialized class struggle, the repressive state apparatus, and the everyday forms of crisis it has produced. Their music provides a radical critique of the criminal (in)justice system and the Rampart Police Department, as well as an alternative social vision. Like its predecessor, the Blues, Hip-Hop has served as a tradition of investigation, interpretation, and social critique that groups such as the Psycho Realm have embodied. Borrowing from the scholarship of geographer and Blues scholar Clyde Woods who argued that Hip Hop is a Blues revival movement, this paper discusses the music of The Psycho Realm in the context of crisis, (dis)order, and the deadly use of force by LAPD's Rampart Division. It argues that the Psycho Realm has contributed to this Blues revival through their experiences in a predominately Central American and Mexican immigrant community alongside the long history of racialized class violence in Los Angeles.

"Narcocorridos and the Nostalgia of Violence: Postmodern Resistance en la Frontera"

Chris Muniz, Literature & Creative Writing
University of Southern California

A musical derivation of the traditional polka-and waltz-like corrido, the narcocorrido is itself often considered an "archaic" and even "primitive" form of balladry, updated only in its replacement of the heroes of the Mexican Revolution with those of cross-border drug traffickers. By linking the informal system of drug traffic with that of the larger yet similar flow of "illegal" labor that continues to tie Mexico and the United States together in an industry-like dynamic, this paper will reveal how the contemporary corrido operates as a narrative form of intervention, reflection, and critique of the ongoing violence and inequalities enacted by the postwestern modernity project that has been underway since the Mexican-American War of 1848.

This paper will invoke Baudrillard's notion of the hyperreal and the idea that simulations themselves are to be considered "more threatening to the established order...precisely because [they] can reveal that the 'real' of law and order is a simulation in the first place." Thus, for our purposes, it is not the corruption and violence that the corridistas write about that is disturbing, it is, in a very Baudrillardian sense, what these frontier fantasies reveal that will prove to be more unsettling: the "truth" revealed not so much that of the imagined life of the narco but of the geopolitical and historical context that allows and encourages these systems to exist.

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