Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Robert Trager

Second Advisor

Shu-Ling Berggreen

Third Advisor

Robert Buffington

Fourth Advisor

Isaac Reed

Fifth Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi


This dissertation elaborates a theoretical intervention challenging accepted interpretations of the role of rock music in youth political expression and identity formation during the period following the Mexican government’s apertura, or opening, from the 1980s through the 2000s, a period that followed decades of censorship and tight government control of youth expression, popular culture, and national identity. In spite of the fact that youth under the age of twenty-four make up approximately forty-five percent of Mexico’s population, young people and their engagement with and creation of popular culture have been severely understudied. This dissertation argues that while previous research has brought attention to a population that deserves to be studied, much of it has employed theoretical lenses that take too much for granted: perceiving the use and meaning of rock music to young people as inherently resistant, defiant, oppositional, and confrontational; and understanding rock’s fans as a discrete, identifiable, unified, and subordinate social group that is necessarily in conflict with an equally identifiable dominant group.

This dissertation employs an interpretive approach to the study of Mexican rock music that strips away assumptions that organize analysis into predictable frameworks. Instead, following recent global media studies scholarship, select popular music studies scholars, and anthropologist Clifford Geertz, this project places data gathered from informants via interviews, observation, and documentary analysis into broader webs of significance and views human behavior as symbolic action. This research has revealed that rock music’s role in youth politics has been widely varied over the past thirty years – occasionally raising consciousness and prescribing avenues for social change, but more frequently (though equally important) providing a means of escape and disconnect from Mexico’s increasingly violent and hostile social world.

This work is significant as a critical, diachronic account of an important, mediated popular cultural form that is examined contextually, relationally, and while considering audiences, texts, and production in analysis.