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Dialogues in solitude: the discursive structures and social functions of male toilet graffiti

Research output: Working paperOther


Publication date2007
Place of publicationLancaster University
PublisherCentre for Language in Social Life (CLSL)
Original languageEnglish


This paper looks at the discursive and interactional structures to be found in male toilet graffiti at a British university. Traditionally, toilet graffiti has been discussed in terms of thematic content and the possible psychological and socioanthropological impacts on it. By contrast, this study draws on work in conversation analysis and discourse studies to investigate patterns of interaction in this form of mediated linguistic interaction. Combining pragmatics and conversation analysis, the paper identifies patterns of turn-taking, most notably adjacency pairs, and discusses the notion of face-threatening acts in graffiti. The genre is seen as hybrid, incorporating both spoken and written features, and as located in three contexts: the micro-context of the physical location, the mesocontext of social relations at the institution and the macro-context of the wider social formation. All three contexts impact on the structures and the function of male toilet graffiti in that social actors enact conflicting group values while at the same time reinstantiating hegemonic masculinity.

Bibliographic note

CLSL working paper series no. 126