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Incidental Activism: Graffiti and Political Possibility in Athens, Greece

By Othon Alexandrakis

Cite As:
Alexandrakis, Othon. 2016. “Incidental Activism: Graffiti and Political Possibility in Athens, Greece.” Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 2: 272–296.


Based on field research in Athens, Greece, this essay considers graffiti as a mode of political response to the material and symbolic violences of neoliberal governmentality. In 2010, the Greek state declared sovereign debt crisis and began to implement an aggressive austerity program in exchange for economic aid from a troika of international lenders. This resulted in the dismantling of public services, tax increases, salary and pension reductions, layoffs, and, generally, the impoverishment of the middle and lower classes. In this work I consider a crew of three young graffiti writers, both before and during the years of the crisis, as they came to realize a fear of becoming integrated into an economized social mainstream and responded by creating street art intended to bolster critical reasoning among Athenians. I argue that fear of abjection and the experience of being at the social margins served as a stimulus of critical agency, and that the crew’s intervention can be considered indirect activism: a mode of resistance whose critical agents attempt to bring about their ambitions and visions by activating other groups to undertake resistance of their own. I show how my interlocutors made political possibility by creating art that lessened the capacity of neoliberal governmentality to manufacture consent, thereby contributing to a thriving ecology of resistance action in Athens.


graffiti; Athens; activism; desubjugation; political subjectivity