Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
“AirBnB Tourists Fuck Off, Refugees Welcome” reads one of the many graffiti decorating the walls of Athens’s colorful, often run-down buildings. Close by another stencil in several languages, including Arabic, declares “My Body, My Choice”, calling for “Queer Insurrection.” Sending a clear message to those passing by, these art works speak out against several intersecting power structures: gentrification and touristification of Athens’ popular neighborhoods, heteronormativity and patriarchy, as well as rising nationalist and xenophobic ideologies and policies in Fortress Europe.
In this paper, I trace these intersections as expressed in refugee and solidarity graffiti. Drawing on interviews with street artists and material collected during several months of fieldwork in Athens from 2015-2018, I compare the different messages that refugees, citizens and activists express visually and discursively through their English-, Greek- and Arabic-language street art.
More specifically, I am interested in how artist-activists speak from their positionalities at the margins of the national, neoliberal and patriarchal hegemonic order. Several of the graffiti on Athens streets draw connections between dispossession, displacement, heteronormativity, and patriarchy. Through their cultural production, artist-activists express, produce and enact new radical notions of togetherness and solidarity. These ‘solidarities at the margins’ might, I argue, point us toward powerful radical imaginaries of inclusionary democratic politics beyond national, neoliberal, and patriarchal frames.