Performing Identity: Exploring the Gender Politics of Graffiti and Street Art in Oakland, California
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractStreet art and graffiti are predominantly made by urban residents to assert their presence in society; address social, political, and economic issues; and transform the physical spaces of a city. Historically dominated by men, the graffiti/street art subcultures are experiencing a rise in the participation by and recognition of women. Existing literature has generally focused on men's involvement, while the discussion of women writers/artists is often limited to how they have remained on the periphery. With the growing use of social media to publicize their artwork and connect with other artists, women are expanding their reach within the subcultures. By adapting traditionally masculine content and approaches to graffiti/street art while incorporating their own perspectives, relationships to the material and social environment, and expressions of identity, women graffiti/street artists are creating unique spaces of artistic expression and transgression, both online and offline. This case study in Oakland, California, uses semi-structured interviews with thirty informants, document analysis, participant observation, and creative practices to examine how women graffiti/street artists change the urban landscape. My research indicates that women artists are both performing and representing their socio-cultural identities, and thus redefining the subcultures in ways that are increasingly nonpatriarchal, nonhierarchical, and decolonial. In contrast to studying only the broad, structural forces in a city, this research contends that examining the individual identities of participants—their lived, daily experience and senses of agency—is crucial for understanding the workings of urban space. This research also contributes to our grasp of how women further important feminist approaches to urban space and dialogue. Situated within the traditions of feminist geography and the geohumanities, this case study aims to contribute to the body of literature on street art and graffiti by emphasizing the transformative impact of women street artists on urban space, urban identities, and an urban aesthetic.
Degree ProgramGraduate College