Book Review: Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art by Jeffrey Ian Ross.

AuthorTsilimpounidi, Myrto
PositionBook review

Ross, Jeffrey Ian, ed. Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art. New York: Routledge, 2016. xxxx + 491 pages. Hardcover, $225.00.

The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art, edited by criminologist Jeffrey Ian Ross, is a much anticipated entry in a field of studies that has enjoyed a rapidly expanding interdisciplinary interest over the past decade. Graffiti and street art are now an integral part of our urban environments and have captured a global following in the last few years. From the early inception of the New York graffiti scene in the 1970s, where tags were seen as a sign of urban decay and impoverishment, to the colourful street art pieces in contemporary Berlin that contributed to the city's gentrification process, street art and graffiti have come a long way. Depending on one's point of view, graffiti and street art have become synonymous with two distinct approaches: one that views them as vandalism and therefore a symptom of angry youths and impoverishment, and another that embraces them as signs of free expression that contribute to a more egalitarian cityscape. The Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art engages with such dualities in order to open up a polyvocal critical analysis of this urban phenomena. To put it differently, the Handbook views graffiti and street art simultaneously as a sign of social tensions, as a political act in public space, and as an art form with very skilled practitioners.

Part of graffiti and street art's universal appeal is that they allow viewers an understanding of certain urban milieu; in other words, they offer the voyeuristic pleasure of safely entering a subcultural story of a place without resorting to the hegemonic official histories. This is precisely the reason why street art and graffiti attracted academic interest in the last decade, resulting in a burgeoning library of articles and books which this handbook carefully selects and brings together. This text is impressively interdisciplinary, with criminology being the discipline most present in the analysis. Contributors' disciplinary backgrounds include art history, youth studies, sociology, urban studies, subcultural studies, social movements, communication, urban planning, geography, visual cultures, and performance studies. Moreover, the Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art offers a rich geographical spread, not only including the dominant graffiti and street art Meccas (the United States and the United...

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