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London UndergroundA Cultural Geography$
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David Ashford

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781846318597

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781846318597.001.0000

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 31 March 2020

Insurrection in Alphabet-City

Insurrection in Alphabet-City

Counterculture in the London Underground

Chapter:
(p.135) 6 Insurrection in Alphabet-City
Source:
London Underground
Author(s):

David Ashford

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781846318597.003.0007

A space produced by signs is peculiarly open to semiotic subversion. This chapter examines how the London Underground was misappropriated by countercultures in the post-war period. Beginning the Absolute Beginners depicted in the fiction of Colin MacInnes and Sam Selvon, the subversive rewriting of this space attained a whole new political impetus with Situationist International from the late sixties. Persons inspired by the events in Paris introduced the first political graffiti to London's tube-network, and imported the sophisticated style that emerged in New York, believing that the Faith of Graffiti (the circulation of the artist's personal brand through the system) is a sure way of reclaiming the space of non-place for the subculture. Initially supported by Greater London Council, the radical potential of this art seems to have remained entirely dormant until Prime Minister Thatcher began to roll out her controversial program for the urban regeneration of the capital. In the late-eighties the spaces of the tube-network became the battlefield for an unprecedented form of semiotic warfare, inspiring novelists such as Hanif Kureishi, Alan Moore, Barbara Vine, John Healy and Salman Rushdie to situate fictional resistance to various totalitarian blueprints for the capital in the London Underground. This chapter sets out the secret history of the city's graffiti subculture, and builds upon ideas from the two most important theoretical texts on graffiti, by Norman Mailer and Jean Baudrillard.

Keywords:   SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL, GRAFFITI, COLIN MACINNES, SAM SELVON, GUY DEBORD, L.P.A., KING MOB, MALCOLM MCLAREN, CHROME ANGELZ, NORMAN MAILER

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