23rd September 2013 Ethnography Findings So Far..

This is a quick summary to show how far I am now in to my ethnography for this research project and to see what has still to be done. This map shows the areas that I have completed and blogged about: 

This shows: Stoke, Shelton, Burslem & Middleport, Peacocks Hey & Hemheath Woods, Canal day1, Canal Day 2, and Hanley section 1. 

Still left to complete is Hanley section 2, Fenton, Longton, Tunstall and Newcastle Under Lyme.

So far the correlations between where graffiti has been found and the wider area have been interesting. Most graffiti so far has been found on or around transport links. So by the A500, train tracks and canal. There has been many empty industrial sites that have also had graffiti inside (some I have been able to access, some not). These again have all been within walking distance of the canal or A500 and the train tracks that run parallel. The areas of student housing have been the only residential areas so far to have had graffiti on the walls, in the open. This is a fairly unsurprising link to youth culture, and also the connection with the area; making a mark on somewhere that you will not stay for long, or searching for recognition in an unfamiliar space. 

The interviews completed so far have backed up theory created by similar studies that I have read, such as ‘The Graffiti Subculture’ by Nancy Macdonald. Immediate impressions though  show that within subcultural theory a lot of emphasis is placed on teenage boys. Although im finding that many of my interviewees talk about starting to paint as early as 14, none of them are under the age of 18 now; Most are in their mid-late twenties. It appears that their painting careers seem to accelerate with age rather than teenagers simply growing out of deviant behaviour, and is something im really interested in discovering why. 

Cohen’s ‘Delinquent boys’ is a study that focuses on young boys. These lower class boys reach schooling age, and struggle to fit in to what is essentially a middle class institution. Status  frustration is felt by educational underachievement, they feel they cant compete so flip the rules and create their own environment that values other things. For the Graffiti subculture the institution becomes the crew and achievement and status comes from ability and your last piece, demonstrated by recognition by other artists/ crews.

Artists that then go on to have a graphic design career or sell their work, making a career from their belonging and achievement within the subculture are following Cloward & Ohlin’s (1960) theory of differential opportunity. Still aspiring to middle class, consumerist norms but gaining these through their status within a subculture. A close example of this can be seen in artists such as Shephard Fairey who emerged from the skateboarding culture to become a global success, making political statements with his form of street art. 

Shepher Fairey owes much of his success to his street authenticity gained from a youth in skateboarding subculture.



Cohen, A. K. (1956). Delinquent boys: The culture of the gang. Taylor & Francis.

Cloward, R. A., & Ohlin, L. E. (1960). Delinquency and opportunity. New York.

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