1992 volume 10(3) pages 329 – 344

Cite as:
Cresswell T, 1992, "The crucial 'where' of graffiti: a geographical analysis of reactions to graffiti in New York" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10(3) 329 – 344

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The crucial 'where' of graffiti: a geographical analysis of reactions to graffiti in New York

T Cresswell

Received 15 June 1990; in revised form 12 August 1991

Abstract. This paper is an examination of the reactions to graffiti in New York during the early 1970s. It is argued that the reactions of the media and government present a discourse of disorder, a discourse in which graffiti is presented as a symptom of disorder and thus a threat to the image of New York City and civilization itself. Simultaneously the art establishment reacts to graffiti by (dis)placing it in Manhattan galleries and describing it as creative, 'primitive', and valuable. These discourses play an important role in the formation and maintenance of the meaning of a place. Simultaneously the place -- New York, the subway, the gallery -- plays a role in affecting the nature of the discourses and judgements of the value of graffiti. This case study is framed in the context of a wider discussion of the relation between place and ideology in which it is suggested that each plays a role in structuring the other.

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