Conscientizao through graffiti literacies in the streets of a so Paulo neighborhood: An ecosocial semiotic perspective

Ana Christina Dasilva Iddings, Steven G. McCafferty, Maria Lucia Teixeira Da Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In this study, we applied an ecosocial semiotic theoretical framework to the analysis of graffiti literacies in the Vila Madalena neighborhood of So Paulo, Brazil, to inquire about the nature and processes of conscientizao (critical awareness) for adult street dwellers who had no or little ability to read and write (as traditionally defined). An ecosocial semiotic framework suggests that people shape their environment through the use of signs, and these signs in turn shape them as part of the complex, dynamic, and nonlinear process in which the environment and its meanings are actively coproduced. We interviewed five adults in the neighborhood community regarding their thoughts about and experience of graffiti. We also interviewed two of So Paulos renowned urban interventionists (a graffiti gallery owner and a graffiti artist) concerning how they perceived the social and political role of graffiti in the community. Findings indicate that certain ecosocial semiotic features of graffiti art are particularly helpful in providing opportunities for conscientizao to take place for the participants we interviewed. The interventionists expressed a deliberate desire to influence the social and political consciousness of community members, which they also hoped would lead to social action. All participants suggested that graffiti has become an important resource in the community, helping members engage in critical perspectives of both the immediate and distal worlds around them. Overall, examining the nature of graffiti literacy in So Paulo, how it is constituted, and how it affects community members is revealing as a process of conscientizao that may have important implications for broadening understandings of praxis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-21
Number of pages17
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Adult
  • Article
  • Digital
  • Family
  • Special needs
  • Theoretical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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