16 Pages

Graffiti on the Great Plains

A Social Reaction to the Red River Valley Flood of 1997
WithCarol A. Hagen, Morten G. Ender, Kathleen A. Tiemann, Clifford O. Hagen

Graffiti is traditionally not associated with disasters. However, the emergence of graffiti after the Red River Valley (RRV) flood of 1997 and other disasters, such as Hurricane Andrew in southern Florida, presents evidence that a relationship does exist. The graffiti on the Upper Great Plains that followed the RRV flood provided a functional symbolic cue to demarcate flood-damaged property. This chapter describes the context and content of graffiti that blanketed Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, after the RRV flood of 1997. It suggests the emergence of graffiti, an otherwise rare phenomenon in this region, to be a cultural manifestation of the collective strain experienced by these neighboring communities as a direct result of the flood. The participation in the activity of graffiti served citizens as a social, political, and perhaps, psychological voice for coping with aspects of the flood. The chapter offers a new term—catastroffiti—to describe the emergence of graffiti-like messages that may follow a disaster.