Note: This is a student project from a course affiliated with the Ethnography of the University Initiative. EUI supports faculty development of courses in which students conduct original research on their university, and encourages students to think about colleges and universities in relation to their communities and within larger national and global contexts.

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Title:Bathroom Stall Graffiti: Writings on the Stall
Author(s):Mbogo, Natalie
bathroom stalls
negotiating space
Abstract:The purpose of this study is to examine the motivation behind bathroom stall art as well as what it signifies and affects in terms of mediating and negotiating emotional relationships among students, as well as individual identity, at a major land grant university as expressed through stall graffiti. Through observational research, personal interviews, and surveys, I discovered that bathroom stall graffiti is a form of negotiation and expression around campus. . It is a rather silent and staple form of expression, especially in buildings where student majors are seen as more subcultural and are otherized. Common topics are love, relationships, sex, religion, politics, life, and humor. There is a difference between male and female graffiti topics, with men’s main topics being sex related and random content, and women’s main topics being life and then love/relationships. There is also a difference in the topics by bathroom. The Union hosts more random, humorous, and controversial (argumentative) topics for graffiti. The English Building is predominantly literature passages as well as debates over existentialism and politics, and thirdly life and love. The Art and Design Building hosts much more graphic images and large scale graffiti as well as literary passages and humor. This gender and building content specific divisions in the graffiti show that students are sharing a piece of themselves in their tagging of the bathrooms and that the bathroom frequenters respond more to what they feel is a reflection or relatable to them as well. I feel that bathroom graffiti studies, given more resources, could find significant and meaningful correlations in content and space through the subculture of bathroom stall graffiti.
Issue Date:2011-08
Course / Semester:ANTH 411; Fall 2010
Ellen Moodie, Instructor
Publication Status:unpublished
Peer Reviewed:not peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-10-05

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

  • Student Communities and Culture
    The university offers an extraordinary opportunity to study and document student communities, life, and culture. This collection includes research on the activities, clubs, and durable social networks that comprise sometimes the greater portion of the university experience for students.

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