Refraining on necropolitics: lyrical geographies of labor music

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Social Sciences


All music takes place somewhere. While geographic analyses of lyrics have focused on the geographies of artists and/or particular places and regions of their inspiration, we see a developing opportunity to discuss music as a fundamental component of social resistance. While scholars have discussed social resistance in music as practiced by artists, such a focus has been researched less in regard to entire social movements on a certain topic. We will fill that gap here by discussing the role that labor plays in popular music lyrics. Using a qualitative analysis of historic and contemporary songs, this paper posits that necropolitics–analyzing the source of power over an individual’s positionality and physical well-being–stands at the core of such song meanings. Therefore, as a result, much labor music incites Marxian understandings of capitalism, poverty, and degraded social reproduction. We suggest this assessment offers a deeper insight into such lyrics and also helps explain the anthemic popularity of many labor-focused songs that have appealed to the working class over many decades.

Publication Title

Journal of Cultural Geography