VAR SUPPLEMENTS: Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions
Ethan Sharp’s “Visualizing Narcocultura: Violent Media, the Mexican Military’s Museum of Drugs, and Transformative Culture” (VAR 30-2, Fall 2014) explores the museumification of drug culture in Mexico as a pedagogical dimension of the drug war.
The following set of questions and resources provide pedagogical tools to be used in undergraduate courses.
Questions for classroom discussion:
- What are some insights that you would expect to gain into drug trafficking and the drug war from a visit to the Mexican military’s museum of drugs? What are some insights that the museum might provide that are not available at other sites or in other forms of media?
- Why does the Mexican military have a museum of drugs? Why is the museum closed to the general public? Why has the Mexican military allowed journalists and other media professionals to disseminate reports about and photos of the museum in recent years?
- How are representations of narocultura in the museum similar to and different from representations of narcocultura in other media, such as television shows, narcocorridos, and films?
- What are some of the different ways in which you can interpret the representations of narocultura in the museum? For example, how does the museum promote or celebrate narcocultura? How does it denigrate narcocultura? How does it undermine or move beyond the concept of narcocultura?
- How do museums contribute to processes of self-discipline and self-reform? Do you agree that the Mexican military’s museum of drugs contributes to self-discipline and self-reform? Why or why not?
- Is it possible to develop a critique of the military and its strategies through the museum? If so, how?
- Can you imagine some better uses of the museum, or some ways in which the museum could be re-developed? Do you think that the museum should be opened to the general public? Why or why not?
Links to representations of the museum in the media that are referenced in footnotes:
Links to other representations of the museum in the media:
Links to blogs that provide information about the drug war in Mexico. These blogs occasionally provide links to videos posted by drug trafficking organizations, as well as videos and other resources posted by citizen journalists.
Other forms of media that are mentioned in the article are narcorridos and telenovelas that feature drug traffickers. The following are links to youtube videos that are trailers for telenovelas and/or videos produced by well-known performers of narcocorridos. I have provided short explanations for each one.
A video by Los Tigres del Norte featuring the corrido of La Reina del Sur. La Reina del Sur was a novel about a woman who became a drug trafficker. The novel was made into a television serial in Mexico:
A trailer for the television serial “Camelia la Tejana,” which is based on a corrido originally performed by Los Tigres del Norte (the song that is performed in the trailer is the corrido of Camelia la Tejana):
Video created for the corrido “El Ejecutor” by El Komander:
A documentary film entitled “Narcocultura,” recently released on DVD provides a very good introduction to the drug war in Mexico and the different forms of media associated with narcocultura. The following is a link to the trailer for the film.