Lifestyles of Risk and Infamy

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kristopher MURRAY, Concordia University, Canada
Approached from the perspective of edgework, a visual ethnography of graffiti writing and street art offers a unique perspective to the exploration of the growing participation of voluntary risk taking behaviors in the urban setting. Both the lifestyle and practices of graffiti writers can involve a considerable degree of risk and personal danger –criminal records and long-term legal consequences, illness, addiction, physical harm, and even death. The participation in and documentation of graffiti writing ‘missions’ also presents the researcher with considerable risks and dangers which are shared with the research participants creating new ethical and methodological challenges for ethnographic work. It also provides a fertile position from which to develop a situated reflexivity in relation to these shared risks and dangers that can help to further empirical analysis of this type of research. How can the ethnographic investigation of graffiti writing help cultural analysts to better understand the relationship between risk taking behaviors, creative expression, alienation, and disobedience? What methodological and ethical considerations must a researcher confront when dealing with edgework that enters into the realm of illegality or crime? This paper aims to address these methodological and ethical concerns through an analysis of fieldwork experiences and photographic documentation of graffiti writers and street artists in Canada, Germany, and Portugal.