Graffiti as a Form of Political Participation

For this assessment, students are required to write a 2,000 word essay in response to one of the questions listed below. In their answers, students must use the concepts offered in the relevant readings and draw on example/s in order to develop and support their own argument. They should not write on the same topic or example that they used in their visual analysis. For example, if a student used an example of graffiti in the visual analysis they should not pick one of the questions about graffiti for their final essay. If a student wrote about kitsch for their visual analysis, they should not write about kitsch for their final essay.

  • Popular culture, Stuart Hall argues, is structured by the “double movement of containment and resistance.” Discuss in relation to a particular cultural practice such as graffiti or the production/consumption of kitsch.
  • “Subcultures represent ‘noise’ (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence . . . a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation,” Dick Hebdige. Discuss in the context of a specific subcultural practice.
  • Dick Hebdige outlines two forms of incorporation of subcultures by a dominant culture: the commodity form and the ideological form. Discuss these two forms of incorporation in the context of an actual subcultural style, with reference to bell hooks’ essay on “Eating the Other.”
  • Graffiti, as a subcultural practice, contests established legal notions of public space, private and corporate property and art practice. Discuss.
  • In the face of systemic exclusion and disenfranchisement of particular radicalised communities, graffiti is about regulation, respect, reputation and the signing of space into place. Discuss.
  • The subcultural practice of graffiti challenges established notions of the ‘aesthetics of authority’ (Ferrell 1996, p. 176). Discuss.
  • Discuss how graffiti is a “contentious form of political participation.” Evidence your arguments with relation to specific and culturally-situated examples of political graffiti.
  • Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s work, discuss how both kitsch and art are in fact all about questions of taste and distinction and the consecration of the social order.
  • Discuss the importance of technologies of reproduction in relation to kitsch. In your answer, you need to discuss Benjamin’s and Olalquiaga’s work on the aura, the original and the reproduction, the tactility of kitsch, and the democratisation of the image.
  • The kitsch object/souvenir promises the consumer “pieces of the aura (mythic time).” Celeste Olalquiaga. Discuss Olalquiaga’s concept of notalgic kitsch and melancholy kitsch.
  • Aboriginalist kitsch is enabled by white supremacism: it is an “assertion of rights of ownership in the intellectual and cultural sphere to match power in the political and economic sphere,” B. Hodge and V. Mishra. Discuss.
  • “Indigenous tourist wares were threatening because they blurred the boundaries, they rendered the other unrecognisable,” R. B. Phillips. Discuss in the context of indigenous tourist art.
  • “We are enveloped by the gigantic, surrounded by it, enclosed within its shadow. Whereas we know the miniature as a spatial whole or as temporal parts, we know the gigantic only partially. We move through the landscape; it does not move through us,” Susan Stewart. Discuss gigantism and the miniature in the context of examples in the Australian landscape and kitsch culture.
  • Art cannot exist without kitsch. Discuss in the context of the work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons.
  • Kitsch and queer “are in a lascivious embrace. They constantly transmute,” Craig Judd. Discuss.
  • Queer kitsch brings into focus a concept of the self as “performative, improvisational, discontinuous, and processually constituted by repetitive and stylised acts,” Moe Myer. Discuss.
  • “Representational excess, heterogeneity, and gratuitousness of reference, in constituting a major raison d’etre of camp’s fun and exclusiveness, both signal and contribute to an overall resistance to definition,” Fabio Cleto. Discuss.
  • “The audience’s connection with celebrities, celetoids and celeactors is dominated by imaginary relationships,” Chris Rojek. Discuss how celebrity kitsch is one of the key products of this imaginary relationship.
  • Construct your own essay question, with reference to the topics and readings of the unit, in consultation with your tutor.

Assessment Criteria: Essays will be marked according to the following criteria: 

  1. Demonstrates a clear and effective grasp of the key concepts raised in the relevant readings
  2. Identifies relevant examples and provides contextualised and forensic analysis
  3. Develops a well-supported and well-researched argument 
  4. Effectively re-evaluates practices of everyday life that are often dismissed as worthless or ephemeral 
  5. Critiques relevant hierarchies of value 
  6. Effectively uses writing skills to present academic research, including consistent and accurate use of in-text referencing.

Submission: The final essay will be submitted by Midnight on Wednesday the 9th of November 2016 via the link to turnitin on the unit ilearn site. See the links below this information.

This Assessment Task relates to the following Learning Outcomes:


  • Demonstrate critical skills, informed by cultural theories, that will enable students to re-evaluate those practices of everyday life that are often dismissed as worthless or ephemeral.
  • Develop analytical skills that will enable students to examine and critique the presuppositions that constitute those hierarchies of value that classify, judge and position cultural objects and practices.
  • Develop research skills that will enable students to present theorised, contextualised and informed accounts of key issues and problems in the context of subcultural and counter-visual practices.
  • Demonstrate communication skills in order effectively and creatively to present research.
  • Employ cultural literacy skills that will educate students on the importance of issues of cultural difference and ethical relations across diverse social and political contexts.

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