In Praise and Defense of Graffiti: A Functional Review of Graffiti Literature

  • Harvey James G. Castillo Ateneo de Manila University


The study of graffiti and/or latrinalia (graffiti on restroom/latrine walls) and the overall discipline of Graffiti Studies is relatively inchoate in the Philippines. An extensive review of literature shows that despite the abundance of graffiti and latrinalia in their many manifestations in our lived material spaces—either throughout the cities or the countryside—published studies on such topics deemed “trivial,” “banal,” “vandalistic,” or “criminal,” are scant and are still predominantly framed from Western experiences and perspectives. This is despite, I argue, the huge yet easily dismissed role that graffiti and latrinalia play in society. It is in this light that this review of literature surveys and synthesizes prior discussions on such marginal texts and graphs/grafts a rhizome that could help future Filipino researchers navigate and explore the rich yet disproportionately unstudied field. The review shows that the fundamental attributes of graffiti and latrinalia in Western discourse include their capacity to evoke the sentiments of the underclass imbricated in a class war, claim and reclaim spaces in the context of class struggle, and be of use in understanding issues of sex and gender among others.