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Affect and materiality of Graffiti in times of crisis

Victoria, Mabel



The impetus for this visual-based presentation comes from serendipitous encounters with certain types of graffiti in Edinburgh during the covid-19 lockdown. As a flâneuse (Elkin, 2016) of Asian heritage, I explore my subjective and embodied (gendered and racialised) experience of walking/wandering the streets of Edinburgh against the backdrop of anti-Asian hate crime in the early days of the pandemic. Every single step I took became not only a radical act of (pro)claiming my right of space but also as symbol of defiance against racist and violent attacks on Asians and those of Asian descent.

In one of my walks, I was enchanted by graffiti messages hastily written on grubby walls, pavements, and metal bins. The messages transformed the physical space into an agentive and semiotized social, political and (inter) cultural space that evokes identities, and enables certain patterns of behaviour (Blommaert, 2013, p. 3). Indeed, I suggest that graffiti can be considered as a “relational object” a “geometric place of a negotiation with countless correspondents and recipients”(Bourriaud, 2002, p. 11).

Drawing from cultural psychogeography and semiotic linguistic landscaping, I used dérive or ‘drift’ (Pyyry, 2019) and photography as data collection methods. Data consists of pictures and entries on my reflection journal. The analytic process privileges ‘remembered emotion’ (Schrauf & Rubin, 2004, p. 23) as triggered by the photographs. I conclude this presentation by suggesting ways to enrich and open up the intercultural studies space through methodological interdisciplinarity.

Notes derive
Dérive – an open-ended drift in the city –a method of doing urban research. The knowing subject never precedes the event of thinking, but emerges with it; a process of cultivating “thinking with” the urban flow of things ((Pyyry, 2019).

Blommaert, J. (2013). Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes. In Ethnography,
Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes. Multilingual Matters.
Bourriaud, N. (2002). Relational Aesthetics. In Les presses du réel.
Elkin, L. (2016). Flaneuse: Women walk the city in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. Chatto and Windus.
Pyyry, N. (2019). From psychogeography to hanging-out-knowing: Situationist dérive in nonrepresentational urban research. Area, 51(2), 315–323.
Schrauf, R. W., & Rubin, D. C. (2004). The “language” and “feel” of bilingual memory: Mnemonic traces. Estudios de Sociolinguistica, 5(1), 21–39.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Rethinking intercultural communication beyond verbal language
Start Date Dec 1, 2023
End Date Dec 3, 2023
Deposit Date Dec 5, 2023
Keywords Affect, Mataeriality, Graffiti
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