Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Peter D. Simonson

Second Advisor

Phaedra C. Pezzullo

Third Advisor

Laurie E. Gries


This thesis is concerned with art’s role in resisting dominant stereotypes of homelessness by mediating a subaltern vernacular rhetoric. Through analyzing anonymous guerrilla artist Skid Robot’s graffiti art as rhetorical resistance against dominant discourses of homelessness on Skid Row, this thesis contributes to uncovering the ways in which art, in its multifaceted ways, plays a rhetorical, aesthetic, and political role in resisting stereotypes of homelessness. Through an analysis of Skid Robot’s graffiti and its mediations on Instagram, this thesis shines the spotlight on the importance of art as more than “art for art’s sake” and illuminates art’s very real, affective capacity to intervene, create experiences, and move people, places, and things. In addition, this analysis will extend the theory of vernacular rhetoric into the visual realm, drawing out its capacities and limits as a mediator of subaltern vernaculars. The overall trajectory of the chapters leads to how graffiti art, in this case the work of Skid Robot in Los Angeles’s Skid Row, acts as rhetorical resistance through a mediation of a subaltern vernacular as an interruption of normative and social discourses of homelessness. In terms of scope, I move from analyzing the mediation of subaltern vernaculars on Skid Row, to ways that aesthetics works to intervene into hegemonic discourses of homelessness, to commenting on the politics and ethics of Skid Robot’s work.