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Graffiti as a Form of Contentious Political Participation

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Abstract

Graffiti is a popular topic in the sociological, criminological, and linguistic literature with several book length treatments of various types of graffiti including tagging, gang graffiti, murals, and “bombings”. Yet, political sociologists have paid little attention to the role of graffiti as a form of contentious politics despite the often political nature of graffiti messages. As a result, most of the political research on graffiti is by non-sociologists. We believe this is an oversight and that both political sociologists and social movement scholars need to seriously consider this form of micro-level political participation. In this review we (1) demonstrate why some forms of graffiti should be considered a serious form of political participation; (2) compare and contrast graffiti to other forms of resistance including squatting and culture jamming; (3) review research findings on graffiti; and (4) discuss some of the conceptual and methodological challenges for doing graffiti research.

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