I became interested in graffiti culture when I began to understand it as a microcosm of how people communicate, participate, and learn within a community. Hip-hop graffiti culture is an example of how identity construction is highly relational, occurring within the space between one’s subjective position and social affiliations. It becomes a matter of peeling away layers of meaning embedded within the complexity of these relationships and the concept of the dialectic. My interest in hip-hop graffiti is in how it “points to a world in which things, meanings, and relations are not conceived as objects removed from human history and action, but rather are seen as products of human praxis” (Giroux, 1981, p. 121).
The diverse relationships within the hip-hop graffiti community, which I studied over a period of five years, created a critical way of thinking, speaking, and acting between members and with the larger society. Foucault said, “There is something in critique which is akin to virtue” (1997, p. 25). He defined critique as “the movement by which the subject gives himself the right to question truth on its effects of power and question power on its discourses of truth” (p. 32). This chapter will examine the “virtue” within the struggle to define one’s identity through a social practice that problematizes issues of knowledge and power.
Before I could begin to understand the essence of hip-hop graffiti as a social phenomenon, I needed a conceptual framework that would reveal the process of learning within a community. I became conscious of how I was viewing hip-hop culture in relation to my own position as an educator and researcher and needed to define what constituted a learning commu-