College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree



ethnography, power, graffiti, identity, symbolic


This thesis utilizes both original ethnographic research as well as existing academic theory to provide an analysis of graffiti as it is historically practiced with Chicago working-class youth "gang" culture. This thesis demonstrates that graffiti written with this context is more complex than typically portrayed by mainstream media and academia, and as a practice serves to articulate and inscribe identities, provide a platform to gain and lose status, and is a way to make symbolic boundaries and demarcations "real". Furthermore, this Thesis demonstrates that through the use of the internet, these instances of graffiti can be projected and a new context created that in some ways allows the "street codes" related to the graffiti to be suspended and in some instances even subverted.