Willie Haggart - Popular Culture of Illegality - Research Center for Material Culture
25 October 2018

The Popular Culture of Illegality

Conference | 24-25 Oct 2018 | Tropenmuseum

This conference explores the popular culture through which the authority of criminal organizations is produced and sustained. Drawing from cases across the world, participants discuss how popular music, film, dance, street art and other forms of expressive culture are central to extra-legal forms of rule and belonging.

From Brazilian traffickers to Jamaican “dons”, from the Sicilian mafia to South African gangsters, criminal organizations and leaders draw on the sensory power of popular culture to normalize their activities. The power they may wield lies not only in their access to weapons and money – criminal authority also has imaginative, aesthetic underpinnings. This conference examines the emotional and ethical work that specific texts, sounds, performative practices, and visual images do in such contexts.

The Popular Culture of Illegality Research Project

The Popular Culture of Illegality: Criminal Authority and the Politics of Aesthetics in Latin America and the Caribbean studies the popular culture of illegality: the music, visual culture and material culture through which the socio-political authority of criminal gangs is produced. Through which aesthetic practices are people mobilized to accept and support criminal authority? How is the popular culture of illegality central to forms of governmentality? How do visuality, aurality and materiality work to constitute and legitimate authority?

Read more about the research on the project page. Stay updated on the conference through the event page on Facebook.

This conference is organized by Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam) and Martijn Oosterbaan (Utrecht University).


Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

Confirmed Speakers

  • Jean Comaroff (Harvard University)
  • Peter and Jane Schneider (Fordham University The City University of New York)
  • Lucia Michelutti (UCL Anthropology)
  • Carly Machado (Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro)
  • Jason Pine (State University of New York at Purchase)
  • Sasha Newell (North Carolina State University)
  • Chelsey Kivland (Dartmouth College)
  • Tracian Meikle (University of Amsterdam)
  • Sterre Gilsing (Utrecht University)

Conference Program

WEDNESDAY 24 October, public evening event, 18:30-21:00
Impacthub, Linnaeusstraat 2C, Amsterdam

18:30-19:00 Welcome from RCMC
19:00-20:00 Keynote, Jean Comaroff
20:00-20:30 Brief project presentation (Rivke Jaffe, Martijn Oosterbaan, Tracian Meikle, Sterre
20:30-21:00 Open conversation between team and Jean Comaroff

THURSDAY 25 October, public conference, 9:00-18:00
Mauritszaal, KIT Royal Tropical Institute, Mauritskade 64, Amsterdam

9:00-9:15 Registration and coffee
9:15-10:00 Welcome from RCMC (Wayne Modest)
Introduction research project (Rivke Jaffe, Martijn Oosterbaan)
10:00-12:00 Panel 1
Jason Pine, “Aesthetic Disruption”
Tracian Meikle, “Visual Culture and Urban Inequality in Kingston, Jamaica”
Carly Machado, “Pentecostalism and/as Pop Culture in Rio de Janeiro: Gospel Music,
Violence and Governance in the Peripheries of Rio de Janeiro”

12:00-13:00 Lunch (at your own expense)

13:00-15:00 Panel 2
Sasha Newell, “On Celebrity and Criminality in Côte d'Ivoire, 1987-2017”
Sterre Gilsing, “Parties, Politics and Power: Aesthetic regimes of bailes funk in Rio de
Janeiro's favelas”
Chelsey Kivland, “The Life of Death and Pleasure in the Haitian Baz”

15:00-15:15 Coffee break

15:15-16:45 Panel 3
Lucia Michelutti, “Authority and the Aesthetic Power of ‘Mafia Raj’ (the rule of mafia)
in North India”
Peter Schneider and Jane Schneider, “Convivial Occasions: Mafia Cultural Production
and the Mafia-State Intreccio”

16:45-17:00 Closing
17:00-18:00 Drinks, Museum café De Tropen


This event is free of charge. However, we do ask you to reserve a seat via https://tickets.tropenmuseum.nl/rcmc

More photographs of the event by ©KIRSTENVANSANTEN, can be found on our Facebook