Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-2q4x6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-29T08:49:33.641Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

It's a Living: Hit Men in the Mexican Narco War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Because hit men in the twenty-first-century Mexican drug war engage in paid labor at the extreme end of dehumanizing economic relations, they expose the shifting notions of work, life, and ethics that support contemporary global capitalism. Hannah Arendt's distinctions between labor, work, and action structure this comparative analysis of two 2010 narratives featuring Mexican hit men: a testimonial text titled El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin and a feature film titled El infierno. These texts explore the subject-producing as well as the destructive effects of murder for hire. Alain Badiou's Ethics illuminates how when professional killing becomes a way of life, it provocatively complicates concepts of the good and the human.

Special Topic: Work Coordinated by Vicky Unruh
Copyright © 2012 by The Modern Language Association of America

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Works Cited

Faciolince, Abad, Héctor. “Estética y narcotráfico.” Revista número 7 (1995): ii–iii. Print.Google Scholar
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Print.Google Scholar
Agamben, Giorgio. “Sovereign Police.” Means without End: Notes on Politics. Trans. Binetti, Vincenzo and Casarino, Cesare. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000. 103–07. Print.Google Scholar
Archibold, Randal C., Cave, Damien, and Malkin, Elizabeth. “Mexican Leader Wants Drug War Set in Law.” New York Times, 16 Oct. 2011: A5+. Print.Google Scholar
Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 1958. 2nd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Assassin.” Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford UP, 2011. Web. Nov. 2011.Google Scholar
Badiou, Alain. Ethics. New York: Verso, 2001. Print.Google Scholar
Bowden, Charles. Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields. New York: Nation, 2010. Print.Google Scholar
Bowden, Charles. Preface. Molloy and Bowden vii–xiv.Google Scholar
Fernández L'Hoeste, Héctor. “From Rodrigo to Rosario: Birth and Rise of the Sicaresca.” Revista de estudios hispánicos 42.3 (2008): 543–57. Print.Google Scholar
Franco, Jorge. Rosario Tijeras: Una novela. 1999. New York: Siete Cuentos, 2004. Print.Google Scholar
Gaviria, Víctor. El pelaíto que no duró nada. Bogotá: Planeta, 1991. Print.Google Scholar
The Godfather. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, and Diane Keaton. Paramount, 1972. DVD.Google Scholar
Gottheil, Richard, and Krauss, Samuel. “Sicarii.” Jewish Encyclopedia: The Unedited Full Text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. Kopelman Foundation, 2002–11. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.Google Scholar
Gramsci, Antonio. Prison Notebooks. Ed. Battigieg, Joseph A. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia UP, 1982. Print.Google Scholar
Guerrero Gutiérrez, Eduardo. “La raíz de la violencia.” Nexos en línea. Nexos, 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 July 2011.Google Scholar
Hare, Robert D. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths among Us. New York: Pocket, 1993. Print.Google Scholar
Higgins, Chris. “Labour, Work, and Action: Arendt's Phenomenology of Practical Life.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 44.2–3 (2010): 275300. Print.Google Scholar
El infierno. Dir. Luis Estrada. Perf. Damián Alcázar, Joaquín Cosio, Ernesto Gómez Cruz, Elizabeth Cervantes, and María Rojo. Bandidos, 2010. DVD.Google Scholar
Jácome, Margarita. La novela sicaresca: Testimonio, sensacionalismo y ficción. Medellín: Fondo Editorial Universidad EAFIT, 2009. Print.Google Scholar
Killings Grow More Gruesome as Mexican Drug Cartels Try to Out-Shock.” The National. Abu Dhabi Media, 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2011Google Scholar
Maerker, DeniseThe Other Anti-crime Strategy.” Borderland Beat. Borderland Beat, 6 June 2011. Web. 10 July 2011.Google Scholar
Martínez-Cabrera, Alejandro, and Borunda, Daniel. “Dismembered Bodies Found All Over Juárez. El Paso Times. MediaNews Group, 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.Google Scholar
Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich. The German Ideology. Ed. Arthur, C. J. New York: International, 1970. Print.Google Scholar
McQuillan, Colin. “The Political Life in Giorgio Agamben.” Kritikos July (2005): n. pag. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.Google Scholar
Molloy, Molly, and Bowden, Charles, eds. El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin. New York: Nation, 2011. Print.Google Scholar
Por venganza, sacan a mujer embarazada el producto y la queman viva.” El El Diario, 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.Google Scholar
Ravelo, Ricardo. Los capos: Las narco-rutas de México. México, D.F.: Random; Mondadori, 2005. Print.Google Scholar
Reveles, José. El cártel incómodo: El fin de los Beltrán Leyva y la hegemonía del Chapo Guzmán. Mexico, D.F.: Random; Mondadori, 2010. Print.Google Scholar
Rodríguez Castañeda, Rafael, ed. El México narco: La geografía del narcotráfico, región por región, estado por estado, ciudad por ciudad. … México, D.F.: Planeta Mexicana, 2009. Print.Google Scholar
Rodríguez Nieto, Sandra. “Cuestionan estadísticas idea de feminicidio.” El El Diario, 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.Google Scholar
Ronquillo, Víctor. Sicario: Diario del Diablo. México, D.F.: B, 2009. Print.Google Scholar
Salazar, Alonso. No nacimos pa' semilla: La cultura de las bandas juveniles en Medellín. 1990. Bogotá: Planeta, 2002. Print.Google Scholar
Scarface. Dir. Brian De Palma. Perf. Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Steven Bauer. Universal, 1983. DVD.Google Scholar
El sicario, room 164. Dir. Gianfranco Rosi. Les Films d'Ici and Robofilms, 2010. DVD.Google Scholar
Sumas y restas. Dir. Víctor Gaviria. Perf. Juan Uribe, Alonso Arias, María Isabel Gaviria, and Fredy York Monsalve. Latin Cinema Group, La Ducha Fría, Latino, and ATPP, 2004. DVD.Google Scholar
Tiran ocho cadáveres en carretera de Veracruz.” El El Universal, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Oct. 2011.Google Scholar
Vallejo, Fernando. La virgen de los sicarios. Madrid: Punto de Lectura, 2006. Print.Google Scholar
Van 43 mil muertos en lucha a narco: DEA.” El El Universal, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2011.Google Scholar
Vulliamy, Ed. “Ciudad Juarez Is All Our Futures: This Is the Inevitable War of Capitalism Gone Mad.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 20 June 2011. N. pag. Web. 25 June 2011.Google Scholar
Žižek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. New York: Verso, 2002. Print.Google Scholar