Excavating ghosts: Urban exploration as graffiti archaeology

Kindynis, T. 2019. Excavating ghosts: Urban exploration as graffiti archaeology. Crime, Media, Culture, 15(1), pp. 25-45. ISSN 1741-6590 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Based on several years of near-nightly excursions into London's disused, non-public, forgotten, subterranean and infrastructural spaces, this article considers the significance of discovering years-or even decades-old surviving traces of graffiti ('ghosts', in graffiti parlance) in situ. The article also draws on extensive ethnographic research into London's graffiti subculture, as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews with several generations of graffiti writers. The article proceeds in four parts. The first part reflects on three sources of methodological inspiration: unauthorised urban exploration and documentation; more-or-less formal archaeological studies of graffiti; and 'ghost ethnography', an emergent methodological orientation which places an emphasis on absence and the interpretation of material and atmospheric traces. The second part of the article considers recent theoretical work associated with the 'spectral turn'. Here, ghosts and haunting provide useful conceptual metaphors for thinking about lingering material and atmospheric traces of the past. The third part of the article offers some methodological caveats and reflections. The fourth and final part of the article seeks to connect theory and method, and asks what significance can be drawn from unauthorised encounters with graffiti 'ghosts'.

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cultural criminology, ghost ethnography, graffiti, hauntology, spectral, urban exploration

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17 August 2017Accepted
17 September 2017Published Online
1 March 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2018 11:41

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:46

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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