“Walls of Freedom”: Street Art and Structural Violence in the Global City

Dominic Davies

English Faculty, University of Oxford, UK. Email:

Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.02

 Received May 11, 2017; Revised July 07, 2017; Accepted July 75, 2017; Published August 06, 2017.


This article argues that contemporary street art (or graffiti) uses a unique set of resistant techniques to foreground the contours and shapes of different kinds of structural violence inscribed into, and perpetuated by, the infrastructural layouts of the twenty-first century’s increasingly global cities. Graffiti can resist structural violence as it is shaped and exacerbated by—even embedded within—the physical walls of city spaces, ricocheting off into alternative and on occasion more democratic modes of urban habitation. Through a discussion of examples from urban spaces as diverse as revolutionary Cairo, divided East Jerusalem and the West Bank in Palestine, and South African townships and gentrifying East London, the article shows that street art can transform the violent infrastructural strategies of oppressive state governance into a canvas that articulates calls for democratic and political freedom.

Keywords: graffiti, street art, structural violence, the global city, urban social formations, cultural resistance, visual culture

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