The discourse of gangs: Angelville graffiti

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Anderson, D.M.

Anderson, D.M. (1992). The Discourse of gangs: Angelville graffiti. -- In Lambda Alpha Journal, v.23, p.44-75.


The graffiti of Angelville has been placed on the walls by gang members to at once signify their existence to passersby and also to communicate with other gangs. The signs in which the message is expressed, or coded, is a direct or metaphorical reflection of the sociopolitical, cultural, and aesthetic make-up of an audience. The aim of this paper is to understand how graffiti functions. What are its rules? Author suggests it functions in an indexical mode pointing to gangs and their territory as well as making statements against other gangs. In many ways it is like a language, however, it is not a language, but code which needs language to mediate the signs since the graffiti signs cannot operate on a meta-, self-referential, level.

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The data used in this paper is that of Professor Cintron. Some he collected before author began his assistantship, and the rest was collected after January, 1991. Many of author's observations in this paper have come from his year of working with Professor Cintron. Observations arose in conversation or sometimes in writing, but it is difficult to footnote the exact source. Author highly recommends Dr. Cintron's writings for anyone who is intrigued by some of the ideas offered in this paper.