Contesting Resistance, Protesting Violence

Women, War and Hip Hop in Mexico


  • Hettie Malcomson University of Southampton


This article endeavours to push scholarship away from analysing resistance from a universalist (white, liberal, masculinist, global northern) perspective by exploring how an intersectional framework facilitates taking an anti-essentialist approach to both resistance and resistant subjects. By examining how young women protest against the high numbers of homicides, systematic violence and widespread impunity in Mexico through rap music, this article argues that a focus on activist discourses has tended to result in essentialising resistance, thereby erasing certain tensions, marginalised experiences and oppositional voices. The article centres around ethnographic encounters with two rappers: Oaxaca-based activist, Mare Advertencia Lírika, and Torreón-based non-activist, Rabia Rivera. It provides a detailed analysis of their participation in a written rap battle on the theme of ‘war’. It reveals that rap songs encouraging introspection can be as political as explicitly activist songs, and that the aim of both can be to shift people’s understandings and promote change. This is significant because it is only by attending to distinct actors’ positionalities, to their similarities and differences, that negotiation can be collectively enabled to fight violence in Mexico.

Author Biography

Hettie Malcomson, University of Southampton

Hettie Malcomson is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Southampton. She trained in sociology, ethnomusicology and anthropology. Her work explores what the ethnographic study of music reveals about social inequalities. She has interrogated manifestations of racism, ageism and sexism through Mexican danzón; hierarchies of artistic and knowledge production through British new music; and, most recently, experiences of violence in Mexico through hip-hop. She received the honourable mention for the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Bruno Nettl Prize.