Sense-making artifacts on the margins of cultural spaces

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1 Scopus citations


Graffiti are universal communicative artifacts. For example, epigraphologists used the graffiti found on the walls of the city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by a volcano in A.D. 79, to accurately reconstruct many cultural features of the people who inhabited the city (D'Avino, 1964; Lindsay, 1960; Tanzers, 1939; Varone, 1991). No doubt, most peoples and cultures throughout the world anonymously write, draw, and paint on walls and other surfaces. These acts are inherently social. As Bruner and Kelso (1980) astutely observe, "although [often] written in the privacy of a toilet stall, the writing of graffiti is an essentially social act.... To write graffiti is to communicate; one never finds graffiti where they cannot be seen by others" (p. 241). Yet graffiti remain relatively absent in communication inquiry and ethnographic research (for exceptions see Conquergood, 1994; Rodriguez and Clair, 1999; Scheibel, 1994). Communication scholars and ethnographers seem to still assume that graffiti have no communicative value. It is supposedly the doing of deviant and delinquent minds (Abel and Buckley, 1977; Dundes, 1966; Gaylin and Jennings, 1996; Klein, 1974; Opler, 1974).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExpressions of Ethnography
Subtitle of host publicationNovel Approaches to Qualitative Methods
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)0791458237, 9780791458235
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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