Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Eli Rubin

Second Advisor

Olivia Gabor-Peirce

Third Advisor

David Benac


Graffiti is an integral part of Berlin’s social fabric. However, this social phenomenon is relatively new to this city. As recently as the 1980s, Berlin was almost blank. Therefore, this thesis seeks to answer the question of how and when it came to this part of the world. Charting graffiti’s origins in New York City in the 1970s, this thesis examines how its growing popularity among young New Yorkers inspired an array of graffiti media in the early 1980s. The most consequential of these were the movies Wild Style and Beat Street, as well as the book Subway Art. Once these media made their way to Germany - in the case of Wild Style funded and distributed by a German public television company - they became extremely popular. Within the span of a few years, gray walls all over the city of West Berlin lit up in color as young Berliners joined the movement. By the late eighties, graffiti was an entrenched subculture, complete with homemade subcultural magazines called “fanzines,” which documented the origins of the movement. An examination of these fanzines reveals just how influential New York and the original generation of graffiti media were for the graffiti community in these early years, as well as how the scene evolved over the years. Indeed, had New York not pioneered graffiti and graffiti media, the city of Berlin would look markedly different today.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted