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Wallflower Masculinities

and the Peripheral Politics of Emo

Matthew Carriilo-Vincent

Emo is a joke. What is emo? It is something for fifteen-year-old girls that

are barely growing pubic hair. They get emotional over the lead singer,
not the music. That's number one. Number two: Is it necessary to create
another genre just to express emotions? Is Death Metal not enough?
Is Punk not enough? Are pop acts like Camila, Sin Bandera, and Jos
Jos not enough? Is it necessary to create a new genre that says, "Dude,
everyone else is mistakenemotionally, they don't fulfill us"?
Fucking Bullshit, kids. There is no movement. There is no new way
of thinking. There are no musicians. You confuse Punk, Hard Rock, and
Screamo. And combine them all just to give significance to your stupid,
idiotic movement. It is not a movement.
Kristoff, VJ, Telehit (Mexican television channel, owned by Televisa
broadcasting company), on emo, 2008 (translated from Spanish by the

In framing this special issue of Social Text, "Punk and Its Afterlives,"
a peculiar division takes place, separating a seemingly coherent movement"punk"from the messiness that followed in its wake. Indeed,
both the specific division in the title and the impetus for compiling a
special issue some four decades after the fact suggest that punk, if nothing
else, has a particular way of generating a call for response, a particular
way of encouraging us to think about what it means to listen to punk from
a distance. And so, in many ways, this article belongs to what might be
considered the latter half of the special issue's investment, more interested
in turning its critical eye away from the stage, the pit, and the pogoing
masses to, instead, the back of the room. What would it mean, I wonder
here, to think about punk from the periphery?
Social Text 116 Vol. 31, No. 3 Fall 2013
DOI 10.1215/01642472-2152828

2013 Duke University Press


The emergence of emo subculture as an "emotional" alternative to

the aggressive hardcore punk scene in Washington, DC, coheres in this
intersection, in both senses of punk's afterlives. As a derivative genre in
which "emo" is short for "emotional hardcore punk," and as an affective
response to the normative masculinities circulating in punk's supposed
countercultural stance, emo, I suggest, stands in as both periphery and
response. But how do we begin to think about a movement that, in the
words of Telehit VJ Kristoff, just days before widespread attacks on emo
kids by punks in Quertaro, Mexico, "is no movement"?' Ephemeral,
derivative, and peripheralthe stuff of punk's "afterlives"emo deserves
an equally peripheral methodology of reading that begins and ends in the
margins of culture. Here, I propose that an appropriate reading of emo
lies not in the form of a history or genealogy, methodologies that often
recirculate rather normative conceptions of culture and time, but rather
in a structural reading that posits emo as a particularly peripheral critique of normativity, and that hears normativity circulating just as easily
through punk countercultures as it does the mainstream against which
those countercultures are opposed.^ Curiously enough, that peripheral
critique of normativity, here in the context of emo, comes largely from
otherwise normative subjects: straight, white, middle-class males at the
edges of punk's countercultural stances and the fringes ofthe mainstream's
privileged lives.
A sideways critique from a sideways stance, emo presents one of
punk's most fascinating effects: an opportunity for us to think about what
a criticism of normativity looks like when it comes from the normative
subject. And so while this article will attempt to address the overwhelming question that has haunted the subculture"What is emo?"it is also
interested in thinking less about emo as subculture and more about emo as
a kind of structure: the critical periphery of normativity, from which we
might begin to develop new insights into what it means to identify normative masculinity as the dominant logic of privilege and to identify affect as
the appropriate idiom for critiquing normative masculinity. In the spirit
of this alternative genealogical approach, I will begin by unpacking what
it means to say that emo functions as a periphery, and then turn to three
essentially emo "moments" of the last three decadesits juxtapolitical
emergence from the DC hardcore punk scene, circa 1985; its antipublic
dissembling in the late 1990s; and its postmainstream spread across the
US-Mexico border in the early twenty-first centuryproposing that in
considering emo always in relation to normative trajectories, we can begin
to unpack the very contours of normativity itself.
With hoodies up and headphones on, emo kids did more than just
look inside themselves to find the logics of privilege they had found so
repulsive. They rerouted the "movement" of punk into the simple act of

Carrillo-Vincent The Peripheral Politics of Emo

"being moved," a passive nod to a politics of self-reflection that wanted

to sit this one out and listen from the sidelines. Between the "Fuck You"
nihilism of hardcore punk and the cowboy politics underwriting Reagan's
exceptional America, emo emerged as a fragile, incoherent striving for
something "real" amid all the noise. It opened its ears to a dissonant world,
and in all that dissonance found the same logics of privilege on both sides
of the table.
And so who could fault them for shedding a few tears? Grab your own
set of headphones, open a full box of tissues, and get ready to listen along.
Structures of Feelings

I can't take anymore of all the scum in this place.

Shitty dudes with tribal tattoos all around me.
Lining up cheap beer and roofies for a party at their place.
Trying to convince freshmen they're somebody
By spending all of their parents' money on kegstands
And Matt says, "I don't fit in."
All these fake-tan girls laughing at art school kids
Getting mocked in return for being substance-less.
You're too caught in semantics to see it.
But you're no fucking different.
from "My Last Semester," by the Wonder Years, 2010

"What is emo, anyway?" Since the term's earliest usage in the mid- to
late 1980s, this most basic of questions has haunted participants, dominating the discourse surrounding the subculture to an extent that few
other subcultures have experienced. As Spin magazine senior contributor
Andy Greenwald writes in his 2003 book. Nothing Feels Gaod: Punk Rock,
Teenagers, and Emo: "Emo means different things to different people.
Actually, that's a massive understatement. Bmo seems solely to mean different things to different people. . . . Not only can no one agree on what
it means, there is not now, nor has there ever been, a single major band
that admits to being emo. Not one."'
Greenwald's hyperbolic introduction might be a bit tongue-in-cheek
for a book that makes such a claim, only to be followed by several hundred
pages of defining the indefinable. But something about emo has always
carried with it an aura of ephemerality: in the United States, the label can
refer to any of three distinct, heterogeneous music scenes that have flashed
in and out of existence since the mid-1980s, each with a separate set of
social concerns, varying levels of relation to the mainstream, and a shifting
listening publicand each composed in sonic palates so distinct that one
would be hard-pressed to otherwise associate the various manifestations.
Some critics and musicians have vouched for it nostalgically as the "lost
Social Text 116 Fall 2013


label of [our] youth,"" while others have mocked it dismissively as "a social
scene . . . not art."^ Out magazine attempted to frame it slightly more specifically as having a "punk-pop aesthetic with a queer fabulousness factor
that approaches those of beloved 8O's gender benders like Boy George and
Annie Lennox."* A subculture that privileges a language of "feelings" as
a sentimental response to a hypermasculine alternative; a musical genre
marked by onstage crying and intense, emotive vocals; an androgynous
style that has most recently favored "swoopy bangs," tight "girl jeans,"
and lots of "guyliner" eye makeupall primarily for its significant straight
white-boy following: emo is tremendously ambivalent and, given its reception, maybe a bit embarrassing.'
The reluctance of participants to identify with the scene may in part
derive from an acknowledgment of this fact, that what makes emo sincere
for some listeners renders it silly for others. But it also could derive from
the ambiguous aesthetics of the genre that have even made it difficult to
distinguish emo from its peers. Often emerging from the margins of other
genres, emo was less about sonic rebellion and more about affective rebellion: an unpoliced commitment participants could make with themselves,
outside of those ideological scenes from which they would articulate their
dissent as listeners, consumers, participants, and critics. While fiercely
self-regulated subcultures like hardcore punk (which demanded commitment to its aggressive DIY market politics), straight edge (which regulated
against those who drank, smoked, or had premarital sex), and goth (which
refused anything outside its distinct aesthetics) found coherence in the
clear lines they drew around themselves, emo's ephemeral, affectively
oriented devotees were often only peripherally distinguishable from these
other scenes. Even the most cherished emo records, from bands as various
as Rites of Spring (^Rites of Spring, 1985), the Promise Ring (Nothing Feels
Good, 1997), and Dashboard Confessional (Swiss Army Romance, 2000),
sound remarkably similar to tangential genres circulating at the time.
And yet, for emo listeners who heard in these records a poetic, vulnerable response to the mainstream, their identification as distinctly emo is
unequivocal among their listening publics. Between counterculture and
the mainstream, between the personal and the political, emo's rhythms
scored the life of kids on the periphery, the wallflowers watching the dance
from the sidelines.
Framing emo as peripheral and ambivalent may seem evasive,
enabling us to produce the subculture as only tenuously available for critique. But I would suggest that this framing actually helps us to draw out
the historical significance ofthe "man of feeling" as a very particular kind
of response to normativity that comes from the normative body. Indeed,
both emo's production of affective earnestness and its critique of normative masculinity from within the space of the normative body have their

Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

roots in larger narratives about male sentimentality that first emerge in

eighteenth-century British philosophy and culture.* Like the eighteenthcentury man of feeling, which arose in response to the widely circulating
logics of racial, gendered, and class privilege characterizing the expansion
of the British Empire, the contemporary emo kid articulates his dissent
from other normatively privileged bodies through the expression of an
excessively affective performance. In contrast to the stalwart forms of normative masculinity that require both composure and a sense of deferment
from the bodyalways directing his stoic gaze elsewhereboth iterations
ofthe man of feeling turn inward, ascribing authenticity to the "emotional"
delivery and lyrics in contrast to the hard, apathetic performances of
normative masculinities circulating around them. In exploring their own
feelings, expressing their most sincere thoughts and anxieties, emo boys
could be "real" with themselves, unlike their macho counterparts.
But emo's ambivalent reception mimics the typically hostile historical response to male sentimentality, as well: frequently derided by critics
on both sides of the political spectrum, emo's ambiguity invites uneasiness in response to its inability to cohere in a clear ideological position.
Conservative policing of rigid gender norms sees in emo's fey ambiguities and feminine style a threat to normative logics of privilege, threats
serious enough to merit violent responses, both physical and otherwise.'
Critics from the Left see in emo's sentimental posturing the very logic of
privilege itself, the well-wrought tear to counterbalance the stoic gaze.'" It
appears that much ofthis tension comes down to the central contradiction
of sentimentality governing emo's ambivalent stance: that the affective
language it speaks to articulate its critique of normativity is precisely the
same language normativity adopts to secure itself.
In other words, we have reason to be hesitant to embrace emo with
open hearts and flowing tears. Critical studies in race and gender have
long articulated the ways in which certain forms of male sentimentality,
though they felt critical of privilege, often simply accrued a complexity
and depth to the already privileged subject. As Gail Bedrman would say,
these forms of masculinity helped to "remake" the complex man of empire,
ensuring that the logics of privilege and normative masculinity intertwined
to secure and stabilize the civilized male subject." While scholars like Julie
Ellison and Lynn Festa have articulated this dynamic within the context of
early British imperialism, Anne Cheng, Tania Modleski, and others have
frequently drawn out the inevitable inheritance of these structures today.'^
And so we're left with a subject that, in so many ways, has never really
been the starting point for a progressive critique of normativityamong
the various disciplines engaged in the work of critical cultural studies, we
tend to critique the privileged subject from outside the realm of privilege.
But the possibility of articulating a spacewhat I call the peripheryfrom
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which to generate a different kind of critique of normativity may in fact

challenge the social hierarchies of privilege that tend to reproduce themselves in polemic approaches. Recent work in affect and queer theory has
attended to this possibility: Both Eve Sedgwick's conceptual figuring of
the "beside" as a kind of critical gesture that permits a "spacious agnosticism about several of the linear logics that influence dualistic thinking"
and Lauren Berlant's articulation of the "ambivalence" of sentimentality
gesture toward more capacious ways of reading contradictory or peripheral objects.'^ Following their lead, I want to open up the periphery as a
framework that acknowledges both emo's critique of, and implication in,
normative logics, but then uses that contradiction to look at the boundaries
of normativity itself. Indeed, we might even consider emo's "wallflower
masculinities" as not so much opposed to normative masculinity as they
are beside it, with the full understanding that, as Sara Ahmed writes:
to be against something is precisely not to be in a position of transcendence:
to be against something is, after all, to be in an infinite relation with that
which one is against. . . . The messy work of "againstness" might even
help remind us that the work of critique does not mean the transcendence
of the object of our critique; indeed, critique might even be dependent on
And if i Started Crying, Wouid You Start Crying? Emo's Origin Stor(ies)

We are hardcore kids that couldn't quite cut it as hardcore kids.

Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, 2006
The exploration of emo as a particularly peripheral phenomenon helps to
illustrate the larger gestures that I want to make in this paper, helping us
to sketch the contours of normativity from the perspective of the critical
normative subject. But it is important to remember that, when the genre
first became legible to the public at the turn of the twenty-first century,
there didn't seem to be anything specifically critical, let alone political,
about emo at all. With a popular etymological explanation of emo as,
simply, the "emotional" subculture (eliding its more accurate derivation
from "emotional hardcore"), common readings of the genre elided any
ties to the punk scenes from which it had emerged.'^ Something about
emo, it seemed, had made it particularly illegible to understand in relation to other genres, despite the fact that emo's ties to the punk, hardcore,
straight edge, queercore, and riot grrrl movements should have been quite
obvious. And so in this section, I want to open up the possible reasons
why emo often became shorthand for "emotional" at the cost of eliding its
relation to the political urgency and hypermasculinity of hardcore punk.
And in doing so, I will argue that it had become difficult for the public to


Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

understand what seemed in emo to be an impossible conflation: the political immediacy of hardcore punk; the white, middle-class, male body; and
an affective excessiveness characterized by rumors of public crying, lyrics
rife with poetic imagery, and withdrawn, wallflower masculinities that
preferred staying in to going out.
On the one hand, there is something familiar about the unsteady alliance of politics and affect: in the early twenty-first-century United States,
we tend to see political critique and affective labor as mutually exclusive
categories. And we can certainly find historical reasons for this, as many
might point us to the historical roots of this division via the separation of
a domestic, private sphere from the political public sphere emerging in
eighteenth-century British thought and culture.'* But as we recall that it
was precisely this division that helped to produce the initial emergence of
the man of feeling, we would do well to consider the possibility that the
anxiety produced in this conflation of affective and political labor is more
complicated than it seems.
In fact, I wonder if this contradiction occludes the other contradiction at work in the conflation I articulated above. Curiously, it seems that
"emo," as it began to be employed more acerbically in public discourse,
stretching from schoolyard taunts to "special reports" on local television
newscasts, began to function as a vector of anxiety produced in the juxtaposition of unregulated affect and the white middle-class male body."
As seen in the proliferation of the label "emo" as a form of insult and the
parental warnings about possible suicide attempts, something about male
sentimentality was making people nervous. That I am trying to make a
distinction between these two sets of conflations is not to suggest that
one is more important than the other in producing a better reading of
emo; rather, it is to suggest that at their intersection lies the particular
combination of anxieties that result from emo's peripheral relation to both
counterculture and the mainstream. And this, ultimately, is what I want
to establish in this section: that if we can reread emo's genealogy beyond
the "emotional," articulating its emergence from hardcore punk, then we
can better draw out the seemingly contradictory dynamics at work in the
sceneits political saliency, its affective logics, and its utter indebtedness
to the normative body.
And so in this sense, if we really want to understand emo as a peripheral movement, then we first need to understand the scene from which it
emerged: hardcore punk. Exemplified by the polemical, politically inclined
stances of bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Dead Kennedys
in the early 1980s, hardcore punk cohered in its aggressive "hatred for
mainstream normalcy" and the "paradigm shift. . . reinstating the white
man's order" that began the decade.'^ It was afiercelyoppositional movement, and it found coherence in its clear enemy: newly elected president
Social Text 116 . Fall 2013


Ronald Reagan. He served, according to scene historian Steven Blush, as

"the galvanizing force of hardcore . . . an enemy of the arts, minorities,
women, gays, liberals, the homeless, the working man, the inner city, etc.
All 'outsiders' could agree they hated him.""
Figuring itself in this position of "outsider," allied with a credibilityboosting list of "minorities," hardcore's oppositional politics declared
that it was "us-versus-them," and its aggression was too visceral and
pronounced to accept any nuance to that dichotomy. It flattened the
distinctions between its largely normatively bodied participants and the
"oppressed" groups with which it sought to identify, and it used that alliance to establish that its members, too, were outside the "white man's
order" of privilege and normativity.
Not surprisingly, hardcore's relation to "minorities, women, gays, liberals, . . . etc." was tenuous at best; its social critique wasn't often associated
with activist or community impulses, and its politics, though aggressive,
weren't really intended to circulate beyond its esoteric boundaries. Such
deliberate policing of its borders allowed for the circulation of songs like
Minor Threat's "Guilty of Being White"a frustrated cry of "reverse
discrimination" from front man Ian MacKaye, who, having grown up in
predominantly African American Washington, DC, felt unfairly treated
as the "white minority":^"
I'm sorryfor something I didn't do
Lynched somebodybut I don't know who
You blame me for slavery
A hundred years before I was born
Guilty of being white^'
If the social geography of hardcore's claims rely on the split between
insider and outsider, MacKaye's abrasive track mixes up its metaphors.
While the political claims of the scene functioned by positing Reagan and
the "white man's order" as wholly distinct from the shared sensibilities
of hardcore kids and "minorities," here MacKaye's critique reifies the
boundaries between its white narrator and its black addressee, a gesture
all the more suspect given the likelihood of a predominantly white audience. This is not to say that hardcore was only something for white males
to participate init would be unfair to erase women's, queers', and people
of color's participation in the scenebut it is to say that hardcore reproduced a normative logic that was heavily circulated by its mostly normatively bodied audience.^^ Not only does MacKaye anticipate the sweeping
conservative backlash to affirmative action and political correctness in the
mid-1990s, he refuses to see the contradiction, and still maintains that the
track is "a really direct anti-racist song.""


Carrillo-Vincent The Peripheral Politics of Emo

That emo could have initially emerged from such a politically vocal
scene might surprise those who read "emotional" as its primary referent.
Arguably, Rites of Springthe oft-cited "first" emo bandsounded very
much like their peers in the DC scene; the songs were perhaps slightly more
melodic, but the arrangements and delivery fit well with their peers. But
recollections of openly public displays of crying onstage and introspective songs with titles like "Deeper Than Inside" gave voice to a peripheral
element of hardcore that disidentified with other bands' aggressive posturing, insisting that the outward critique turn back in on itself. ^'' Consider
"Remainder," a track off of Rites of Spring's eponymous debut, which
condensed this interior political stance:
And I've found things in this life that still are real
a remainder refusing to be concealed
And I've found the answer lies in a real emotion
Not the self-indulgence of a self-devotion.^^
Lyricist and front man Guy Picciotto's insistence on a vocabulary of
"finding" recalls the spatial economy of "Guilty of Being White," but
where MacKaye's narrator drew distinctions between his feelings and
those black bodies that engendered them, Picciotto's narrator is solely
"talking to [him] self" because "there's no one that [he] know[s] as well."
The "real emotion," for Picciotto, is inside, posited in contrast to the
"self-indulgence of a self-devotion" that characterizes MacKaye's complaints. While MacKaye was sarcastically "guilty of being white," Picciotto perhaps felt guilty/or being white.
For many hardcore youth. Rites was just another punk band
Picciotto and bandmate Brendan Canty went on with MacKaye to form
DIY darlings Fugazi, and the scene moved on. But for some who recall
their experiences at the only fifteen shows Rites ever played, there were a
handful of listeners who felt differently. Jenny Toomey, a teenage participant at the time who went on to start her own record label and eventually
work in media advocacy for the Ford Foundation, notes: "At a Rites show
you could actually be in the majority because you didn't drink, weren't an
idiot, and cared about emotions. It was great, like flipping a coin, reversing the norms. When you went to a show you felt like you could be who
you liked to be.""
Toomey's account does have an element of nostalgia in it (to which
she readily admits), but one can't help but feel like something about emo
held a particular saliency. If the logic of the normative mainstream was
to affect a kind of self-righteous pridea performance of privilegethen
surely this specific claim to emotions, at a specific time and place in hardcore, signaled a sea change for a new generation of wallflowers.
Social Text 116 Fall 2013


Certainly, we have reason to be careful in resuscitating the political saliency of emo's affective critiqueafter all, feeling different doesn't
necessarily produce the kinds of structural transformation that would
change the way that normative logics of privilege circulate in culture. But
our desire to acknowledge the ways in which emo helps to push against
these dominant masculinities doesn't necessarily have to be muted in the
face of this fact. This, after all, is the particular dynamic of what Lauren
Berlant might call emo's "juxtapolitical" relation to normativity. As a
sentimental, peripheral subculturewhat Berlant might call an "intimate
public"emo's affective labor "flourish[es] in proximity to the political
because the political is deemed an elsewhere managed by elites who are
interested in reproducing the conditions of their objective superiority."
In other words, because the language of politics is always understood to
already be complicit in reproducing normativity and normative privilege,
the turn to affect presents an opportunity to move against, along, and
beside the normative logics that emo critiques.
For many listeners growing up in these scenes, emo gave them a space
not often found in our culture: a site critical of normativity that acknowledged its own complicity and shortcomings. But perhaps, in this acknowledgment, emo was always prepared to be reabsorbed into the scenes it came
from, a critical moment rather than a critical movement. After D C s small
set of emo bands broke up, there was nothing much left to gravitate toward,
and participants either grew up or got out. And so the first flourishing of
emo, which emerged in what had become known as "Revolution Summer,"
faded away as quickly as it had appeared, refusing to cohere as its own emergent public. But what sounds here like the closing off of emo's possibility
would soon prove to be the opposite: in resisting these certain coherences,
the marginal movement had become something more like a structure that,
in refusing the public, was able to continue to emerge from the periphery
over the course ofthe next two decades. Lonely kids everywhere, without
ever having to leave their bedrooms or computers, would have their own
chance at a summer revolution.
Do Your Part to Save the Scene and Stop Going to Shows:
Refusing the Public

Between one June and September you're all I remember.

from "Forget Me," by the Promise Ring, 1997
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to trying to think through emowhat it was,
what it sounded like, and what it stood forwas the fact that, after its initial emergence in the DC hardcore scene, it disappeared from the musical
and subcultural map entirely, only to reappear several years later under a
completely different sonic and aesthetic template. (Indeed, it would even44

Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

tually go on to repeat this cycle, disappearing in the late 1990s to again

reemerge in the early part of the twenty-first century.) These sine waves
of emergence and disappearance, alongside and through other genres
circulating at the time, made it particularly difficult to develop a vocabulary and system for framing emo. And so, for instance, while Greenwald
attempts in Nothing Feels Good to chart a coherent genealogy of the scene,
he ends up relying instead on ambiguous platitudes to describe it: at
various points, he refers to emo as "seeking a tangible connection out of
intangible things," "remembered . . . more for its brilliant promise than
its realization," and "so urgent, so specific in its lyrics that there was very
little room for movement or growth."^* It is this kind of vague genealogy
that ultimately leads Greenwald to later propose emo as less a movement
than a series of moments, and that characterization allows him to link
what otherwise might seem a disparate grouping of artists and scenes.
That emo relies on the ambivalent discourse of unregulated affect
is partially responsible for these incoherences: as the lingua franca that
connects disparate sets of listeners across more normative conceptions of
time and space, affect became a malleable way in which individual listeners could collectively cathect to music that otherwise seemed so personal
and specific. But, as I want to stress here, this incoherence is made possible precisely when emo retains its peripheral stance: always speaking to
the same kinds of normativities in the same affective language, regardless
of the time or location. It is the reason why we can look at testimonies of
emo listeners from early DC kids to Hot Topic millennial and notice the
same patterns and logics for gravitating toward the music. As Fall Out Boy
lyricist Pete Wentz's reflection on latter-day hardcore and his bandmates'
decision to leave their scene demonstrates, these tales and their circulation help produce an archive that is much less genealogical than affective,
a structure rooted in emotional authenticity as a response to privilege:^'
It's interesting that hardcore in America can kind of be a microcosm of
America in general. When America slid right with Bush, I feel that hardcoreat least in the Chicago scenedid as well. It went from being really
thought-provoking to bands getting on-stage and going, "We don't want
to talk about all that shit anymore. Now mosh, you faggots." So it became
something that I didn't love anymore.^"
Replace Bush with Reagan, 2003 with 1985, and this story could be that
of any DC veteran. Emo's ebb and flow, swelling and receding against
the tides of normative masculinity, is not, it turns out, about a historical
coherence at all: it is simply a response to normativity that only makes
sense in its reliance on the very thing it responds to.
That twisted definition borders on the evasive and the incoherent:
two things that, as I am arguing in this section, are so totally emo. In
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tracing the arcs of emo's emergence and disappearance as they began to

coincide with attempts by labels to market and codify the scene, I want
to draw out the ways in which emo's ambivalent response to becoming a
distinct, coherent public actually tells us quite a bit about the work that a
critique of normativity from the normative subject does. By looking at some
ofthe local trajectories that bands and listeners made in the mid-1990s in
response to promoters hoping to capitalize on the "next big thing," I want
to accent the other side ofthe periphery: its ability to be, as Dick Hebdige
might say, "diffused" and "defused," incorporated back into the normativities against which it was positioned." Though this may seem a rather
innocuous pointthat, in the end, emo kids can't really ever transcend
the normative structures from which they deriveI suggest that it actually
encourages us to think of other models for a critique of normativity that
do not rely on the heroic or antiheroic narratives that we tend to desire.

Less of a proclamation and more of a response, emo has, from its inception, always felt in dialogue with the publics from which it came. Its sentimental aesthetics tended to fold wallflowers into themselves, of course,
but its insular fashion statements (bangs swept over the eyes, hooded
sweatshirts pulled up) and public displays of affect were meant to reveal
at least as much as they were intended to cover up. Despite its reception
as a potentially dangerous and lonely subculturethe terror of its queerness or its apparent links to suicide"emo's melancholic relation to the
world always put the emphasis on relation, not phenomenon. And so in
the mid-1990s, as bands like Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, Sunny Day Real
Estate, and the Promise Ring began to develop an increasingly distinct set
of aesthetics (with increasing attention from markets searching for a tidy
commodity), something unsettling began to happen: for the first time,
emo was being asked to cohere on its own.
At first, many of these bands responded with an uneven anxiety, often
dissembling in the spotlight as it moved from the front of the stage to the
back of the room. It became something of a joke in the scene: no group
could last past two albums without breaking up or changing their sound,
and many bands refused to acknowledge not only their presence in the
"scene," but the existence of said scene in the first place." In being asked to
stretch beyond the limits of one of punk's "afterlives," in the diminution of
emotional hardcore to emo, the mid-1990s bands were forced to negotiate
what it would really mean to emerge as a distinct phenomenon. From the
periphery, emo's juxtapolitical relation to normativity had allowed it the
temporary possibility of negotiating the margins ofthe cultures to which it
belonged, ambivalently resting in the space of Eve Sedgwick's "between."
As it continued to become legible to the mainstream, however, the scene

Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

felt the tug of normativity in its continual quest to expand the range of
possibilities for the privileged subject.
Eventually, of course, the temptations of coherence and the rewards
of normativity became much more difficult to resist. As Jenny Toomey, who
earlier spoke longingly of her affection for the scene, claims: "Once punk
and hardcore had swelled nationally to hundreds of thousands of people,
only then did people start grading what was punk and what wasn't. What
was once a hugely diverse space quickly codified into the sound of a white
boy singing and crying.''^"
Codification, as Toomey puts it, drags a coherence to emo that we
might see as wrenching it from the periphery. With an aesthetic turn from
interiorized, nostalgic longing to sad songs about mean girls, a familiar
hierarchy of bodies soon began to form within the increasingly intelligible
and coherent scene. As Jessica Hopper writes, "Emo [became] just another
forum where women were locked in a stasis of outside observation, observing ourselves through the eyes of others. . . . On a pedestal, on our backs.
Muses at best. Cum rags or invisible at worst."" In other words, the scene
so easily began to slide back into the logics it had once appeared to situate itself against; we need not look any further than the latent misogyny
brewing in its acerbic break-up songs ("I could dissect you / and gut you
on this stage / not as eloquent as I may have imagined / but it will get the
job done"^^), the insularity of its aggrandized self-pity ("It only hurts when
I breathe""), and the complacency of its Utopian impulses ("If I could I
would shrink myself and sink through your skin to your blood cells and
remove whatever makes you hurt but I am too weak to be your cure"^^).
The more that emo came away from the periphery into something that
could be identified, that had a sound and a look, the more it came to form
its own normative public.
This is not to offer a reductionist reading of how emo "went bad"
when it eventually went public, but it is, rather, to stress the tenuousness
of the periphery in its proximity to normativity. In many cases, as emo
increasingly became a marketing tool that labels and bands used to sell
records, it gave license for these boys to perform the excessively affective
masculinities everyone expected of them. Without regulation, though,
emo's insular turn stayed insular, simply recirculating increasingly onedimensional narratives to an audience that looked and acted just like them.
It is easy to suppose that the purists refusing this public stayed
true to emo's egalitarian ideals and critiques of normativity. But don't be
fooledthere aren't any heroes on either side of the periphery: those bands
and listeners that withdrew from emo's more visible publics often ended
up in heteronormative normalcies all on their own. As the concluding song
to the Upsides album by the Wonder Years put it:

Social Text 116 Fall 2013


So everyone moved in with their girlfriends

-In one bedroom apartments
In the town that we grew up in.
And all my friends are in bar bands
. I don't know how it happened; I hope it pays the rent."

Packed up and ready to move on, well-prepped for the narratives against
which they were always positioned, listeners ambivalently felt the tug of
what normativity would call "growing up."
After the Afterlives: Affect Sin Fronteras
Fucking Bullshit, nios. No hay un movimiento.
Kristoff, VJ, Telehit, on emo (in its original multilingual iteration)
The emo kids don't bother me. What bothers me is that they take a place
as if it were theirs. . . . It also bothers me a bit that they look more like girls
than boys.
Anonymous anti-emo youth, after the March 7, 2008, riots at the Plaza
de Armas in Quertaro, Mexico (translated from the original Spanish)

As emo gradually succumbed to the beck and call of major label contracts
and corporate-sponsored summer tours after the turn of the twenty-first
century, its coherence as a public became more firmly delineated. With
distinct sartorial aesthetics, a limited range of sonic palates, and the
codification of white male sadness at the center of it all, emo had fully
detached itself from the periphery, and was now ready to embrace its time
in the national eye.
The only problem, it seemed, was that disaffected white youth were
no longer really listening. The audience for emo, having transformed once
from a diverse DC subculture to a lonely set of mid-1990s males, now
had become, on summer Warped Tours, and at local clubs like Anaheim's
Chain Reaction or Pomona's Glass House, overwhelmingly mixed-gender
crowds, and primarily working-class kids or middle-class youth of color.
It was easy, of course, to consider these iterations of emo "derivative" by
this pointa claim to impose a normative genealogy that erased emo's
peripheral pastbut as it turned out, these listeners generally couldn't care
less about previous generations that, in all likelihood, were now white dude
dads in their mid-thirties. With an increasing departure from normative
gender performances, an emerging alliance with queer youth communities,
and a newfound association with nonnormative bodies, emo regained its
political saliency as a politics emerging from the periphery once more.""
At the margins of white subcultures that embraced feeling different,
and family and school cultures that demanded normative conformity, a new
crowd of emo kids negotiated the terrain of affective rebellion. On some

CarnWo-'J'incent The Peripheral Politics of Emo

level, we might want to consider this a new facet to emo's affective archive,
the natural development of a national scene. But the scope of influence
and severity of response to emo's third wave also asks us to speak to the
specificity of normative policing in the twenty-first century. In this final
section, I want to look at the ways in which a new generation of peripheral
listeners negotiated not only the terrain of local music scenes, and not even
only the terrain of normative masculinities, but indeed the terrain of the
nation itself. Emo's movement to working-class communities of color, and
its eventual emergence among las tribus urbanas de Mxico, help us unpack
the periphery as a structure that speaks in the twenty-first century to the
ways in which certain normativities circulated well beyond the limited
borders of the nation.
This shift in subject merits a shift in perspective. Instead of continuing to figure the periphery as a space for emo to respond, a strategy that
helped to articulate its nuanced critique of normative structures, here I
want to look at the ways in which twenty-first-century emo was increasingly being responded to, scrutinized by politicians and punks alike. As
the scene began to garner an overwhelming public visibility, its critiques
of normativity no longer went unnoticed, and it was soon met with a more
aggressive backlash. In the United States, for instance, social media sites
circulated innumerable videos documenting bullying, fights, and parodies
of emo kids, and "National Emo Beatdown Day" had been informally
established online as a coordinated response to the scene."" In the spring of
2008, across numerous public plazas from Chihuahua to Chiapas, a series
of coordinated physical assaults on emo kids spread throughout Mexico
as well. The increased normative policing of bodies across cultural and
geopolitical lines may have looked differentdomestic schoolyard bullying
versus the widespread "riots" reported in Mexicobut, as I would suggest here, these strategies were much more alike than many in the United
States, in particular, would like to have believed.
Indeed, US coverage of the events in Mexico (ominously dubbed as
the "emo riots") signaled its own complicated combination of apparent
indifference and subtle moral outrage. For mainstream magazines like
Time, emo in Mexico was, on the one hand, just another derivative NAFTA
export, "one ofthe colorful youth cultures popular in the US and Europe
that have swept over the Rio Grande as the nation opens up its economy
and politics and a new generation grows up with the Internet and cable
TV." '^ At the same time, however, Mexico's reaction was deemed unusually severe, to a degree unthinkable in the "civilized" United States. The
Time writer loan Grillo notes: "The assailants target the emos for dressing
effeminately, still a provocative act for many in a macho Mexico.'"" That
there is some truth to this claim, most widely evidenced by the circulated
video of an anonymous Mexican youth claiming that "it also bothers me
Social Text 116 Fall 2013


a bit that they look more like girls than boys," should not deter us from
reading the salience of "provocation" and "macho" in a US context as
well."" After all, emo's initial peripheral emergence in Washington, DC,
was precisely in response to these same normatively masculine logics, just
iterated in distinctly US formations. And so in acknowledging the coherence of similar normative logics circulating on both sides of the border,
is there a way, I wonder here, at the end of this article, in which we can
begin to think about a periphery that can listen to normativity even in the
transnational present?"^
Admittedly, it seems disingenuous in this final section to combine
two very different kinds of listenersUS youth of color and los jvenes
de Mxico. But if we are to listen carefully to the ways in which Mexico's
emo riots echoed quite similar responses to emo in the United States,
then I would suggest we can also find a way in which these two seemingly
disparate groups might be more alike than we imagine. If the distinction
between the two countries does not seem like one that the United States
actively tried to promote, look no further than the circulation of Telehit VJ
Kristoff's misogynistic rant, as it became a scapegoat in the US media for
the incitement of the emo riots. The media's insistence on blaming Kristoff
for the attacks helped to chart a distinct line between a progressive United
States and a "macho Mexico," highlighting stark national "differences" in
the same way that contemporaneously circulating accounts of "Mexico's
drug wars" did.
But Kristoff, born Kristoff Razcinsky to Polish parents in Moscow in
1974, might serve as a much more complicated interlocutor for the transnational normative policing of third-wave emo than many in the United States
would like to think. His now famous rant coheres as an exemplary transnational iteration: delivered on a subsidiary of Latin America's largest media
conglomerate (Televisa, which also has a strategic alliance with Viacom/
MTV), his words conflate a critique of one US exportemowith a
defense of anotherpunk."* The video went on to circulate via YouTube
and MTV, easily accessible media for Internet-savvy youth on both sides of
the border. And the video culminates in Kristoff's switch into English at the
precise moment of his rant's apex"Fucking Bullshit, nios"effectively
spilling over national borders as it assumes the transnational language of
normative policing. Maybe these fronteras are more complicated, after all.
Soon, of course, the sensational news reports lost people's interest,
and the riots were written off as the sad symptoms of some backward
neighbor to the south. Emo's hold on the public's attention could only last
so long, and by then the US media had already made its point. And yet, I
think there may be a way in which, at the peripheral end of this article, perhaps we could stand in as peripheral listeners to hear something different
among these tenuous borders. In the twenty-first century, after all, no time

Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

could be more salient for us to listen carefully to those instances when the
United States chooses to draw its lineswe're not macho Mexicoand when
it doesn'tthe North American Free Trade Agreement. At the margins of
these cultures, at the periphery of a changing transnational topography,
perhaps we too can hear coherences in these normative contradictions.

No hay un movimiento: There is no movement.

I wonder, in the end, if Kristoff wasn't partially right after all. Perhaps no hay un movimiento has always been the peripheral logic of emo:
committed only to a response, free to emerge against the tangled webs of
normativity in the language of unregulated affect, always shifting, forever
ambivalent in the margins of changing cultures. It ought to remind us, once
more, to recall the etymological potential of "emotion" in the simple act
of "being moved" moved, that is, to other bodies, other politics, other
normativities, unraveling.
No longer the peripheryperiferia.
No longer the wallflowerel marginado.
Lyrics from "My Last Semester" by the Wonder Years are quoted with permission of
the Wonder Years. Lyrics written by Dan Campbell of the Wonder Years.
1. The translation of this quote (and the essay's epigraph, from which it is
derived) is a combination of my own translation and one of the many translations
of the now infamous online video in which Kristoff denounced emo kids in Mexico,
months before the March attacks on emo youth in Quertaro, Mexico. One of the
more popular circulations of the video in the United States (which can be found
with a cursory Google or YouTube search) was featured on MTV Online, and was
accompanied by an article by James Montgomery. See James Montgomery, "Behind
the Emo Attacks: We Head to Mexico City to Talk to the People Involved," MTV
Online, 17 April 2008,
2. Within the context of emo, biographies ofthe scene have relied on primarily
chronological accounts that trace emo's DC emergence to its twenty-first-century
iterations. See Andy Greenwald, Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and
Emo (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2003); and Leslie Simon and Trevor Kelley,
Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture (New York: HarperEntertainment, 2007). In contrast, and inspired by the work of critics like Ann Stoler and Jack
Halberstam, I argue that the periphery might allow us a new rubric that resists the
normative conceptions of time reproduced in these formal genealogies.
3. Greenwald, Nothing Feels Good, 1-2.
4. "Then What Is 'Emo'?," Stereogum (blog), ed. Scott Lapatine, 18 October
5. Dean Kuipers, "Pop Music: Oh the Angst, Oh the Sales," Los Angeles Times,
1 July 2002.
6. Barry Walters, "Queer as Punk," Out, November 2006, 28. .
7. I'm curious how this claim might resonate with some rather different

Social Text 116 Fall 2013


types of readers. On the one hand, emo's "embarrassment" comes from its slightly
"gender-bending" take on masculine performance, which has met significant derision from outsiders in both national and international contexts. On the other hand,
emo's ambiguous politics and potential co-optation of feminine and queer practices
stand out as potentially embarrassing for critics who read emo as simply another
co-opting facet of normativity. This contrarian dynamic reveals yet again the peripheral locating of emo as ephemeral, affective subculture.
8. While there is a wide critical tradition attentive to male sentimentality and
empire in the eighteenth century, the work of Julie Ellison and Lynn Festa has been
particularly illuminating. See especially: Julie Ellison, Cato's Tears and the Making
of Anglo-American Emotion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); and Lynn
Festa, Sentimental Figures of Empire in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).
9.1 will detail the violence later within the specific context of Mexico, though
several international reports of violence against emo youth continue to circulate.
There was some media attention given to a wave of attacks in Latin Americafrom
Chile, to Argentina, to Mexicocirca 2008, and then again to attacks on emo
youth in Iraq this past year (March 2012). Interestingly, in coverage of the Iraq
killings, both online and in official proclamations against the violence by the US
Embassy, confiations and confusions abounded regarding the blurred lines between
participants in emo subculture and allegations of homosexual or nonnormatively
gendered behavior. Even when addressed directly, commentators, politicians, and
local "experts" had difficulty articulating the blurred lines between gender, sexuality, and emo, and inquiries into motivations for the violence seemed equally
blurred as a result. For a moderate-length Al-Jazeera report on the events, see "The
Stream: Emo Youth Targeted in Iraq," Al-Jazeera English video, 37 mins., 42 sees.,
22 March 2012, posted on Palestinian Pundit (blog), 23 March 2012, Palestinian For the
US Embassy in Baghdad's official condemnation of the attacks, see "US Embassy
Condemns Attacks on 'Emo' Youth in Iraq," Embassy of the United States, Baghdad, Iraq, press release, 13 March 2012,
10. My description of the stoic figure shedding a single tear derives here from
the work of Julie Ellison in Cato's Tears.
11. See, especially, Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural
History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1996).
12. Anne Cheng and Tania Modleski both speak to the twentieth-century
rise of a certain iteration of sentimental masculinity that, though ostensibly seeming to be distanced from privilege, in fact simply accrued a complexity and depth
to the already privileged subject. See Anne Anlin Cheng, The Melancholy of Race:
Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Crief (New York: Oxford University Press,
2001); and Tania Modleski, Feminism without Women: Culture and Criticism in a
Postfeminist Age (New York: Routledge, 1991). Julie Ellison is perhaps the most significant scholar to trace this phenomenon to its roots in eighteenth-century culture
and literature in Britain, and stresses the importance of this history as an essential
component of post-Enlightenment masculinity.
13. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 8. See also Lauren Berlant, The
Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008). These alternative methodological


Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

approaches seem to respond, in a way, to some of the more forceful lines drawn in the
sand by classic queer studies texts like Gayle Rubin's "Thinking Sex," which I would
suggest reifies certain normative hierarchies in its spatial figuring of privilege in the
"charmed circle" and its "outer limits." Rubin goes so far as to sketch figurative walls
to illustrate boundaries between those occupying the space of normative privilege
and those resisting normativity. See Gayle Rubin, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality," in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female
Sexuality, ed. Carole S. Vance (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 267-319.
14. Sara Ahmed, "Declaration of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of AntiRacism," Borderlands e-journal 3, no. 2 (2004): para. 47,
/vol3no2_2004/ahmed_declarations.htm. Italics in the original.
15. The truncation of emotional hardcore into "emo" belies its association
with other hardcore spinoffs, including queercore, grindcore, and, less linguistically,
the riot grrrl and straight edge movements. It also presents an interesting figure of
castration and diminutiveness that would be interesting to unpack elsewhere. (I owe
these insights to Heather Lukes.)
16. Though there is contention among the specifics of this oft-cited formulation, they tend to gravitate toward and respond to the work of Jrgen Habermas.
See, especially. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a
Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989).
17. Although there are numerous examples, I am thinking here in particular of
a WDAZ News 8 newscast widely circulated online, along with an article in the UK
newspaper the Telegraph. For the former, see "Emotional: Fad Can Turn Deadly,"
WDAZ News 8 video, 2 mins., 30 sees., uploaded 23 February 2007,
.com/watch?v=Ri6ySOHoDfk. For the latter, see Richard Alleyne, "Popular Schoolgirl
Dies in 'Emo Sucide [sic] Cult,' " Telegraph, 1 May 2008,
18. These quotations are taken from the film American Hardcore, directed by
Paul Rachman (Culver City, CA: AHC Productions, 2006), based on Steven Blush's
book of the same name.
19. Steven Blush, American Hardcore: A Tribal History, ed. George Petros (Los
Angeles: Feral House, 2001), 20.
20. As further evidence of this sentiment, see also Black Flag's "White Minority," Jea/oMj ^^ai, SST 003, 1980, 12-in. EP.
21. Minor Threat, "Guilty of Being White," In My Eyes, Dischord 005, 1981,
7-in. LR
22. There is a noted attention to certain elements of hardcore that did not
neatly fit in with the normative logics underwriting hardcore and the narratives that
characterize hardcore "history." Bands like Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys had
entirely or partial African American lineups, and Hiisker D's two openly gay front
men point us toward investigating these sites. Still, for the most part, hardcore's
arching normative logics dominated the scene.
23. Ian MacKaye, as quoted in Blush, American Hardcore, 30.
24. The term disidentify owes much to the work of Jose Esteban Muoz, who
uses it to articulate a peripheral relation that queers of color might have in their
engagement with the mainstream. I have an anxiety about simply adapting a queer
of color critique for straight white males, but Muoz's articulations have helped me
to think about the political relation of the wallfiower figure to normativity. See Jos
Esteban Muoz, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

Social Text 116 Fall 2013


25. Rites of Spring, "Remainder," Rites of Spring, Dischord 016, 1985, 12-in.
LP. Readers should note that this essay's section title "And If I Started Crying" refers
to the lyrics from another song from the album, "Theme (If I Started Crying)."
26. Jenny Toomey, as quoted in Greenwald, Nothing Feels Good, 14.
27. Berlant, Female Complaint, 3.
28. Greenwald, Nothing Feels Good, 5, 32, 44.
29. The idea of an "affective archive" owes much to Ann Cvetkovich's conception of an "archive of feelings." Her reconstruction ofthe ephemeral lesbian archive
is quite differently politically situatedshe is attending to a public whose narrative
isn't recast in normative retellingsbut her rearticulation of what might compose an
archive has very much infiuenced my work here. As she writes:
In insisting on the value of apparently marginal or ephemeral materials, the
collectors of gay and lesbian archives propose that affectsassociated with
nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy, and traumamake a document significant. The archive of feelings is both material and immaterial, at once incorporating objects that might not ordinarily be considered archival and at the
same time resisting documentation because sex and feelings are too personal
or too ephemeral to leave records.
Ann Cvetkovich, "In the Archives of Lesbian Feelings: Documentary and Pop Culture," Camera Obscura 17, no. 1 (2002): 112.
30. Pete Wentz, as quoted in Mike Usinger, "Whipping Boy,", 6
April 2006, Indeed, it would be startling
for many to discover the poppy emo band's roots in the hardcore scene, where they
played in bands like Racetraitor, a Chicago hardcore act dedicated to a political
critique of white privilege and colonial nationalism. The epigraph attributed to Fall
Out Boy lyricist Pete Wentz illustrates this ambiguous, peripheral relation as well.
See Charlotte Cripps, "Fall Out Boy: This Is Hardcore," Independent UK, 28 April
31. Dick Hebdige refers to diffusion and defusion as "two forms of incorporation" in his seminal Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge, 1979). I
cannot stress enough the infiuence of this work, both on my article and on current
understandings of punk.
32. See note 17.
33. This "fact" was at the center of the plot of a heavily circulated online
"Emo Game," which made its rounds in the scene. See Emogame Classic Games,
online Flash-based games designed by Starvingeyes/Jason Oda (Allston, MA:
34. Jenny Toomey, as quoted in Greenwald, Nothing Feels Good, 18.
35. Jessica Hopper, "Emo: Where the Girls Aren't," Punk Planet, July/August
36. Fall Out Boy, "My Heart Is the Worst Kind of Weapon," My Heart Will
Always Be the B-Side to My Tongue, Fueled by Rameil 067, 2005, DVD/EP. The title
ofthis section is a reference to another Fall Out Boy song, "Get Busy Living or Get
Busy Dying (Do Your Part to Save the Scene and Stop Going to Shows)," From
under the Cork Tree, Island UICL-90252005, CD.
37. Atreyu, "Someone's Standing on My Chest," Fractures in the Facade of
Your Porcelain Beauty, Tribunal TRB 023, 2001, CD.
38. Brand New, "Guernica," Deja Entendu, Razor and Tie 7930182896-2,
2003, CD.


Carrillo-Vincent- The Peripheral Politics of Emo

39. The Wonder Years, "All My Friends Are in Bar Bands," The Upsides, No
Sleep Records NSR 022, 2010, CD.
40. See, for instance, the consideration of queer youth communities and emo
subculture in Brian Peters, "Emo Gay Boys and Subculture: Postpunk Queer Youth
and (Re)thinking Images of Masculinity," J o t i m a / o / L G r Youth 1, no. 2 (2010):
41. The ubiquity and proliferation of these mmes is typical of material circulating in online youth cultures. A search on YouTube or Google for any of these
phrases will yield many of the residual artifacts (e.g., posters for National Emo
Beatdown Day) that were widespread at the time.
42. loan Grillo, "Mexico's Emo Bashing Problem," Time, 27 March 2008,,8599,1725839,00.html.
43. Ibid.
44. This quote mentioned here is an English translation of a youth interviewed
in the widely circulated Azteca Trece news report on the Quertaro attacks. This
translation is taken from Daniel Hernandez's coverage of the event in Flaunt magazine. See Daniel Hernandez, "The Emo Wars: Dispatch from Mexico City," Flaunt:
Growing Pains, no. 95 (2008). Hernandez would later write more at length about the
specific events as part of a book-length project on subculture and politics in Mexico
City. See Daniel Hernandez, Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis
in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Scribner, 2011).
45. Many of my insights here derive from general press circulating in Mexico
at the time, as well as a series of formal reports by La Comisin Nacional de los
Derechos Humanos (CNDH), a human rights organization independent of the government that reports on potential rights violations in Mexico. In 2009, the CNDH
issued an "Informe Especial de la CNDH sobre el Grupo Juvenil Conocido como Emo," It includes a specific and thorough account of the
2008. riots, as well as a wealth of historically accurate information about the specific
origins of emo in Washington, DC; ethnographic interviews with Mexican youth in
the scene; and psychological reports on the social, affective, and behavioral tendencies of its participants.
46. Kristoff's multilingual rant has been translated into English, a version of
which is at the beginning of this article. See also note 1 above.

Social Text 116 Fall 2013


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