Brighenti, Andrea (2007) Emergent normativities in a crew of graffiti writers. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)
The paper is based on an ethnographic research carried on inside a graffiti writers crew in the North-East of Italy. It aims at investigating the interplay of external and internal normativities that inform the practice of graffiti writing. Graffiti writing is part of hip hop culture, born in the North-American metropolis at the end of the Sixties, and subsequently disseminated in a world-wide diaspora that nowadays cuts across race, class and gender lines. As part of hip hop culture, writing inherits a specific symbolic and normative language. In this paper, writers are observed as a community of practice which develops its own self-regulatory normativity. Endogenous norms interact with different normative sources and codes deriving from other social fields, such as criminal law, political commitment, and art. Writing thus is seen as an ‘interstitial practice’ that illustrates, not simply how a conflict among different normative systems comes along, but also and especially how social fields are shaped through conflicts over the power of nominating (even before judging) practices, or, in other words, through symbolic violence and the capillarity of power. Visibility and territoriality are two crucial aspects that interact with normativity in writing and concur to substantiate it.
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