Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Steven R. Blevins

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Heather D. Russell

Third Advisor's Name

Alpesh K. Patel


Miami, Miami Graffiti, Penit, Biopolitics, Wynwood, Reefa, street art, cultural studies, Michel Foucault, graffiti, delinquency, carceral archipelago, heterotopia, penitentiary

Date of Defense



In the tradition of the Birmingham School of cultural studies, this thesis focuses on Miami’s graffiti subculture and the conflicts between market economies and economies of social meaning. As a reference point, I consider Miami’s “Penits”: the name given to the seemingly abandoned buildings where graffiti is performed. Short for penitentiary, the term derives from the 1980s after a large building rumored to be a prison was defunded midway through its construction. After this first reclamation, every other graffiti heterotopia in Miami has been similarly recoded as spaces that mock structures of discipline and industry.

Through Michel Foucault’s biopolitical framework I argue that the sovereign state and marketplace conspire to dually criminalize and commoditize the subculture’s performative defiance. I conclude by illustrating how the market itself reinforces the carceral archipelago by framing the subculture’s vandal aesthetic through the normalized, self-interested boundaries of conduct that the market itself deems il/legal.





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