The Art of Defiance (Book)

Graffiti, Politics and the Reimagined City in Philadelphia

The Art of Defiance is an ethnographic portrait of how graffiti writers see their city and, in turn, how their city sees them. It explores how becoming a graffiti writer helps disenfranchised urban citizens negotiate their cultural identities, build their social capital and gain a voice within an urban environment that would prefer they remain quiet, passive and anonymous.   In order to both demystify and complicate our understanding of the practice of graffiti writing, this book pushes past the narrative that links the origins of graffiti to criminal gangs and instead offers a detailed portrait of graffiti as a rich urban culture with its own rules and practices. To do so, it examines the cultural history of graffiti in Philadelphia from the early 1970s onward and explores what it is like to be a graffiti writer in the city today. Ultimately, Tyson Mitman aims to humanize graffiti writers and to show that what they do is not merely destructive or puerile, but, rather, adds something important to the urban experience that is a conscious and deliberate act on the part of its practitioners.

Category: Visual Arts

Edition

The Art of Defiance is an ethnographic portrait of how graffiti writers see their city and, in turn, how their city sees them. It explores how becoming a graffiti writer helps disenfranchised urban citizens negotiate their cultural identities, build their social capital and gain a voice within an urban environment that would prefer they remain quiet, passive and anonymous.
 
In order to both demystify and complicate our understanding of the practice of graffiti writing, this book pushes past the narrative that links the origins of graffiti to criminal gangs and instead offers a detailed portrait of graffiti as a rich urban culture with its own rules and practices. To do so, it examines the cultural history of graffiti in Philadelphia from the early 1970s onward and explores what it is like to be a graffiti writer in the city today. Ultimately, Tyson Mitman aims to humanize graffiti writers and to show that what they do is not merely destructive or puerile, but, rather, adds something important to the urban experience that is a conscious and deliberate act on the part of its practitioners.

Tyson Mitman is a lecturer in sociology and criminology at York St John University.

Chapters:

Acknowledgments

Foreword


Chapter 1: Introduction and History
1.1 It Shall Be Written 
1.2 Graffiti History from Graffiti Writers’ Perspective 
1.3 Graffiti History According to the City and Media (and Writers) 
1.4 Wrap Up


Chapter 2: Graffiti and the City 
2.1 North Philly Routin’ 
2.2 Kasso, Philadelphia Mural Arts, and The Joker 
2.3 The Arrest 
2.4 The Trials 
2.5 The Authoritative Constructions of Graffiti


Chapter 3: Graffiti, Rules, and Politics 
3.1 The Rule, Guidelines, and Politics of Graffiti 
3.2 Beef Inside the Graffiti Community 
3.3 Graffiti Beef with the Rest of the Community

Interlude: Kick It Wicked

Chapter 4: The Graffiti Self and the Reimagined City 
4.1 Making Space for Making Selves 
4.2 Create, Destroy, Create, Destroy… 
4.3 Neo-Liberalism? 
4.4 The Gendered Writer 
4.5 Resist, Remake, Repeat


Conclusion: And So It Was Written


References

Vita

Index

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