Cultural Expressions in Jerusalem’s Graffiti

Hello, my name is Charlie Miller and I am currently a freshman at the College. I hope to major in Chemistry, with a minor in Judaic Studies, though that may change to a Religious Studies double major. In many cities with distinct factions of differing religion or race, people use street art to communicate powerful political and social sentiments. An excellent example of this is in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where murals spread throughout the Protestant and Catholic areas depict perennial political tensions. I hope to investigate similar phenomena in Israel, where there is not only a division of religions, but also violence and racial conflict stemming from the recently heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine. 

My research will focus on graffiti in Jerusalem’s Old City, a walled-off area of cultural and religious significance. I hope that my investigation into these graffiti will give me insight into the peoples of modern Israel. The Old City is the perfect location to conduct this research. The city is divided into distinct ethnic quarters (the Christian, Jewish, Armenian, and Muslim). This diversity in such a relatively small area will, I believe, facilitate comparisons between the different populations in Israel through the lens of their graffiti. In addition to exploring the explicit content of the graffiti and looking for any recurring political or religious themes, I will also investigate the location and distribution of graffiti to find implicit statements. Are there hotspots of graffiti in the Old City? If so, why there? What does the location a graffiti writer chooses for his work say about the author and his message? Such are the questions I hope to answer with my research. 



  1. John Sheehan says:

    Assuming that you are not fluent in the four languages dominant in each sector, I wonder how you will approach instrinsic linguistic components that are part of the graffiti. You are going to be dependent on translators for the content of the items, but will they also provide the linguistic elemengts of dialect, education and other dimensions? Telling the difference between items scrawled by native speaking Hebrew speakers and those writing in Hebrew but whose original language is Armenian, for instance, could be crucial in filtering the data you’re seeking – or so it would seem to me. Just wondering…

  2. I realize this is a bit late, but do you think you’re likely to discuss how the Old City’s being walled-off, physically and possibly in other ways, might affect the society that lives (and graffitis) in it? What sort of segregation or differentiation might occur between residents of the four quarters of the Old City and members of the same ethnic/religious groups in the rest of Jerusalem or other areas?