To date, most discussions and analyses of strategic communications within the context of International Relations and Security Studies focus on the linguistic realm. Those that do recognise the power and role of images in these domains, particularly as they reflect upon the contemporary image wars waged by IS and other insurgent groups, tend to focus on the virtual realm of social media and globalized news networks. This article aims instead to articulate a methodological framework for understanding the force and potential of a distinctively spatial and material form of communication: graffiti. Taking Athens as a case study, the article articulates graffiti’s role as a form of strategic communications in areas of social and political crisis, and further suggests its value as a non-violent means of negotiating conflict in areas with limited avenues for democratic expression.
Keywords: graffiti, image war, strategic narratives, influence, soft power, strategic communication, strategic communications
About the authors
Dr Anna Marazuela Kim is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London and Associate Fellow of the King’s Centre for Strategic Communications. Her research focuses on histories, theories and ethics of the image and conflict.
Tara Flores holds an MA in International Relations from King’s College London and is an Account Executive at Portland Communications in London.
Adler, Emanuel. ‘Seizing the Middle Ground’. European Journal of International Relations, Vol 3, Issue 3 (September 1997) 319–363.
Alderman, Liz. ‘Across Athens, Graffiti Worth a Thousand Words of Malaise’. New York Times. 15 April 2014.
Avramidis, Konstantinos. ‘Live your Greece in Myths’: Reading the Crisis on Athens’ Walls. Professional Dreamers, working paper №.8 (2012).
________. ‘Mapping the Geographical and Spatial Characteristics of Politicized Urban Art in the Athens of Crisis’. In Remapping ‘Crisis’: A Guide to Athens, edited by Myrto Tsilimpounidi and Aylwyn Walsh, 183–204. London: Zero Books, 2014.
________. ‘Reading an Instance of Contemporary Urban Iconoclash: A Design Report from Athens’, The Design Journal, 18 (4), (2015) 513–534.
________ and Myrto Tsilimpounidi, eds. Graffiti and Street Art: Reading, Writing and Representing the City. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2016.
Baudrillard, Jean. ‘Kool Killer’ or ‘The Insurrection of Signs’. In I.H. Grant, (trans.), Symbolic Exchange and Death, translated by I.H. Grant, 76–87. London: Sage, 1988 .
Belting, Hans. ‘Image, Medium, Body: A New Approach to Iconology’. Critical Inquiry, № 31, (2005) 302–319.
Bleeps.gr. ‘A Visual Diary on Public Display’. In Remapping ‘Crisis’: A Guide to Athens, edited by Myrto Tsilimpounidi and Aylwyn Walsh, 221–225. London: Zero Books, 2014.
Boldrick, Stacy. Leslie Brubaker and Richard Clay, eds. Striking Images Iconoclasms Past and Present. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013.
Bolt, Neville. ‘Strategic Communications in Crisis’. The RUSI Journal. (156:4): 44–53.
________, The Violent Image: Insurgent Propaganda and the New Revolutionaries. London: Hurst, 2012.
Brighenti, A. M. ‘At the Wall: Graffiti Writers, Urban Territoriality, and the Public Domain’. Space and Culture, № 13, (2010): 315–332.
Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The powers of mourning and violence. London: Verso, 2004.
Clay, Richard and Neil Verrall. ‘Life Imitating Art, Art Influencing Life’. The RUSI Journal, 161:2, (2016): 64–73.
de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Renall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
Dmitri, Shalin. ‘Pragmatism and Social Interactionism’. American Sociological Review, 51.1 (1986): 9–29.
Drakoplou, Konstantina. ‘Art and Politics: Bleeps’ Politically Charged Paintings on the Walls of Athens’. In Remapping ‘Crisis’: A Guide to Athens, edited by Myrto Tsilimpounidi and Aylwyn Walsh, 204–221. London: Zero Books, 2014.
Fluck, Matthew. ‘The best there is? Communication, objectivity and the future of International Relations Theory’. European Journal of International Relations, vol. 20, 1 (2012): pp. 56–79.
Fraser, Nancy. ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy’. Social Text, №. 25/26, (1990): 56–80.
Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Gamboni, Dario. The Destruction of Art Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution. London: Reaktion Books, 1997.
Giddens, Anthony. Central Problems in Social Theory. London: Macmillan, 1979.
Givoni, Michal. ‘The Ethics of Witnessing and the Politics of the Governed’. Theory Culture & Society, 31, 1 (2011): 123-142.
Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger with Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge MA: The M.I.T. Press, 1989.
________. The Theory of Communicative Action, vol 2, Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.
Hansen, Lene. ‘Theorizing the image for Security Studies: Visual securitization and the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis’. European Journal of International Relations 17.1 (2010): 51–74.
Harvey, David. ‘The right to the city’. New Left Review, II, 53 (2008): 23–40.
Iveson, Kurt. ‘Graffiti, Street Art and the City’. City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 14 (1–2) (2010) 25–32.
________. ‘Policing the City’. In Urban Politics: Critical Approaches, edited by Mark Davidson and Deborah Martin, 85–99. London: Sage Publishing, 2015.
Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Penguin, 2012.
Kilcullen, David. Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla. London: Hurst & Co., 2013.
Kim, Anna M. ‘Creative Iconoclasms in Renaissance Italy’. In Striking Images Iconoclasms Past and Present, edited by Boldrick, Stacy, Leslie Brubaker and Richard Clay, 65–88. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013.
________, Elizabeth Merrill, Christopher C. Miller, and Christopher S. Yates. ‘Brief on the Beautiful as an endowment of Thriving Cities’, 2015.
Latour, Bruno. ‘What is Iconoclash? Or is there a world beyond the image wars?’ in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, edited by Latour, Bruno and Peter Wiebel. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Translated by N. Donaldson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
________, Writings on cities. New York: Blackwell, 1996 .
Leventis, Panos. ‘Walls of Crisis: Street Art and Urban Fabric in Central Athens, 2000–2012’. Architectural Histories, 1(1), (2013): 1-10.
McLuhan, McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw- Hill, 1964.
Mead, George Herbert. Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.
Mitchell, W.J.T. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994.
Moore, Joan and Vigil, James Diego. ‘Chicano Gangs: Group Norms and Individual Factors related to Adult Criminality’, Aztlan 18 (1989): 27–44.
Nye, Joseph S. ‘Soft Power’. Foreign Policy 80 (1990): 153–171.
Pangalos, Orestis. ‘Testimonies and Appraisals on Athens Graffiti, Before and After the Crisis’, Remapping ‘Crisis’: A Guide to Athens, edited by Myrto Tsilimpounidi and Aylwyn Walsh, 154–176. London: Zero Books, 2014.
Paul, Christopher. Strategic Communication: Origins, Concepts, and Current Debates. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011.
Phillips, S.A. ‘Graffiti Definition’. In The Dictionary of Art. New York: Grove Dictionaries, 1996.
Ricoeur, Paul. ‘Memory and Forgetting’. In Questioning Ethics: Contemporary debates in philosophy, edited by Richard Kearney and Mark Dooley. London: Routledge 2002.
Schacter, Rafael. ‘An Ethnography of Iconoclash: An investigation into the production, consumption and destruction of street art in London’. Journal of Material Culture 13 (2008): 35–62.
________. Ornament and Order: Graffiti, Street Art and the Parergon. Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014.
________. A World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.