Advertisement

Graffiti as Communication and Language

  • Hunter Shobe
Living reference work entry

Abstract

This chapter examines graffiti as a means of communication and a vehicle for creating and contesting meanings in discrete places. Using city walls as a canvas is a phenomenon thousands of years old. Reflecting its ancient roots, the word graffiti roughly translated from Latin means “to scribble.” What appear to be scribbles to most people is a rich language encoded in urban landscapes worldwide. Modern graffiti emerged in late 1960s to early 1970s, with spray paint and ink the preferred writing implements. The reaction to graffiti at the time and since must be seen in the context of urban politics, global economics and efforts to control the city. Those who make graffiti today are called many things including vandals, artists, and (most importantly here) writers. This chapter considers how the aesthetics and meanings associated with graffiti differ from place to place and the role the media plays in how we understand it. This chapter examines how graffiti has been and continues to be used to articulate resistance to dominant powers. A typology for studying and understanding graffiti in its many forms is suggested. The most common contemporary forms of graffiti (and street art) are considered, including tags, throw-ups, pieces, stencils, characters, wheatpaste, stickers, messages and etchings. Graffiti is a language that many are trying to eradicate, thus graffiti abatement is likewise examined. Regardless of one’s aesthetic view of graffiti, the ability to better understand the language of graffiti allows us to better understand places and the people who live there.

Keywords

Graffiti Street art Writing Landscape Place 

References

  1. Ahearn, C. (1983). Wild style, Film. New York: First Run Features.Google Scholar
  2. Alderman, D., & Ward, H. (2008). Writing on the plywood: Toward an analysis of hurricane graffiti. Coastal Management, 35, 1–18.Google Scholar
  3. Austin, J. (2001). Taking the train: How graffiti art became an urban crisis in New York City. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Austin, D. M., & Sanders, C. (2007). Graffiti and perceptions of safety: A pilot study using photographs and survey data. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 14(4), 292–316.Google Scholar
  5. Baird, J. A., & Taylor, C. (2011). Ancient graffiti in context: Introduction. In J. A. Baird & C. Taylor (Eds.), Ancient graffiti in context (pp. 1–17). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Barnhart, R. K. (Ed.). (1995). The Barnhart concise dictionary of etymology (p. 326). New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  7. Bloch, S. (2012). The illegal face of wall space. Radical History Review, 113, 111–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. C100. (2003). The art of rebellion: World of streetart. Corte Madera: Ginko Press.Google Scholar
  9. Castleman, C. (1982). Getting up: Subway graffiti in New York. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Chmielewska, E. (2007). Framing [con]text: Graffiti and place. Space and Culture, 10(2), 145–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Conklin, T. (2012). Street art, ideology, and public space. Unpublished Master’s thesis. Portland State University.Google Scholar
  12. Conklin, T., & Peters, D. B. (2014). Graffiti and activism: Unmediated access & communication in space. Portland Street Art Alliance [online]. Retrieved on 29 Aug 2016 from https://pdxstreetart.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/graffiti-and-activism-unmediated-access-communication-in-space/
  13. Cooper, M., & Chalfant, H. (1984). Subway art. New York: Henry Holt and Company.Google Scholar
  14. Cresswell, T. (1996). In place/out of place: Geography, ideology and transgression. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  15. Daniel, B. (2012). Mostly true (2nd ed.). 19 (10). Portland: Microcosm Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Dickens, L. (2008). Placing post-graffiti: The journey of the Peckham Rock. Cultural Geographies, 15(4), 71–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dickinson, M. (2008). The making of space, race and place: New York City’s War on graffiti, 1970 – present. Critique of Anthropology 28 (1), 27–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Doran, B. J., & Lees, B. G. (2005). Investigating the spatiotemporal links between disorder, crime, and the fear of crime. The Professional Geographer, 57(1), 1–12.Google Scholar
  19. Esbensen, F. A., Winfree, L. T., He, N., & Taylor, T. J. (2001). Youth gangs and definitional issues: When is a gang a gang, and why does it matter? Crime and Delinquency, 47(1), 105–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ferrell, J. (1996). Crimes of style: Urban graffiti and the politics of criminality. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Ferrell, J. (2001). Tearing down the streets: Adventures in urban anarchy. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  22. Halsey, M., & Young, A. (2006). ‘Our desires are ungovernable’: Writing graffiti in urban space. Theoretical Criminology, 10(3), 275–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harcourt, B. (2001). Illusion of order: The false promise of broken windows policing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Iveson, K. (2010). The wars on graffiti and the new military urbanism. City, 14(1–2), 115–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Labonté, P. (2003). All city: The book about taking space. Toronto: ECW Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ley, D., & Cybriwsky, R. (1974). Urban graffiti as territorial markers. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 64(4), 491–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Macdonald, N. (2001). The graffiti subculture: Youth, masculinity and identity in London and New York. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. MacPhee, J. (2007). Stencil pirates. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press.Google Scholar
  29. Manco, T. (2002). Stencil graffiti. New York: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  30. Manco, T. (2004). Street logos. New York: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  31. McAuliffe, C. (2012). Graffiti of street art? Negotiating the moral geographies of the creative city. Journal of Urban Affairs, 34(2), 189–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McAuliffe, C., & Iveson, K. (2011). Art and crime (and other things besides…): Conceptualizing graffiti in the city. Geography Compass, 5(3), 128–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McCormick, M. (2001). The subconscious art of graffiti removal, 16mm film. Portland: Rodeo Film Company.Google Scholar
  34. Moreau, T., & Alderman, D. H. (2011). Graffiti hurts and the eradication of alternative landscape expression. The Geographical Review, 101(1), 106–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Peters, D. B. (2012). The spatial and temporal life of Manchester graffiti: Towards an assemblage approach. Unpublished Master’s dissertation, University of Sheffield.Google Scholar
  36. Phillips, S. A. (1999). Wallbangin’: Graffiti and gangs in L.A. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rahn, J. (2002). Painting without permission: Hip-hop graffiti subculture. Westport: Bergin & Garvey.Google Scholar
  38. Ross, J. I. (Ed.). (2016). Routledge handbook of graffiti and street art. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Rotman, S., & Brennan, C. (2008). Bay area graffiti. New York: Mark Batty Publisher.Google Scholar
  40. Sampson, R. J., & Raudenbush, S. W. (1999). Systematic social observation of public spaces: A new look at disorder in urban neighborhoods. American Journal of Sociology, 105(3), 603–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shobe, H., & Banis, D. (2014). Zero graffiti for a beautiful city: The cultural politics of urban space in San Francisco. Urban Geography, 35(4), 586–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shobe, H., & Conklin, T. (2018). Geographies of graffiti abatement: Zero tolerance in Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Professional Geographer, 1–9.Google Scholar
  43. Silver, T. (1983). Style wars, Film. Los Angeles: Public Art Films.Google Scholar
  44. Snyder, G. J. (2009). Graffiti lives: Beyond the tag in New York’s urban underground. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Taylor, R. (2001). Breaking away from broken windows: Baltimore neighborhoods and the nationwide fight against crime, grime, fear, and decline. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  46. Weisel, D. L. (2009). Graffiti, problem-oriented guides for police, problem-specific guides series, guide no. 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.Google Scholar
  47. Wilson, J. Q., & Kelling, G. L. (1982). Broken windows. The police and neighborhood safety. Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved: 1 Dec 2012 from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/
  48. Young, A. (2010). Negotiated consent or zero tolerance? Responding to graffiti and street art in Melbourne. City, 14(1–2), 99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

Personalised recommendations