Street art and graffiti represent a diverse range of artistic, social, cultural, and political practices in urban landscapes, whereby writers publicly mark their different intentions, forms of expression, and potential impacts on communities. Graffiti defines places in dynamic spatial and temporal ways, and often garners divided views. Graffiti is frequently understood as either vandalism or art, but this dichotomy under-represents graffiti; it provides rich insight into societies and social life, including different cultures, social issues, trends and political discourse, and spatial and territorial identities. As both a contributor to and commentary on contested spaces, graffiti is particularly valuable in (post)conflict societies undergoing social and political transformation as it furthers knowledge of peace and conflict practices.
For this project we will draw on existing data that project members collected on previous research trips to Timor-Leste, Colombia and Iraq, and build on it with new empirical data from a further, distinct (post-)conflict region: Cyprus. Cyprus is physically, politically, and culturally divided, and presents an excellent case to examine how the political (or non-political) and artistic acts of graffiti and street art maintain or challenge narratives of conflict.
We aim to explore the following questions:
1. What can be gained from an analysis of graffiti writings and occurrence for the management of contested spaces, promotion of peace, and everyday experiences of politically-divided territories?
2. To what extent does graffiti play a role in not only commenting on public and political discourse relating to peace, but in shaping it?
3. How can participatory action research tools, such as walking interviews and qualitative GIS, be useful in advancing understandings of the relationships between graffiti, space, and peace?