When Silenced Voices Become Wall-Scale Public Discourse: A Social Constructionist Analysis of Two Philadelphia Murals

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This paper analyzes two Philadelphia murals, collectively known as The Healing Walls, as significant sites of public discourse through the lens of social constructionism.  Collaboratively created by victims of crime and prison inmates, these murals re-establish communal bonds by providing a communicative space for those marginalized by society to make their voices heard, and reclaim their identities and civic space, in a critical effort to challenge public perceptions (typifications) of the other.  I situate this analysis as an innovative project by allying Berger and Luckmann's (1966) social constructionism with Conquergood's (1991) analysis surrounding boundaries and borderlands, and of the self as the "polysemic site of articulation."  By invoking these theories, my paper offers an alternative avenue for the analysis of visual artifacts.  It also highlights the dialogic nature of public murals and their vital role in mediating communication by involving community members in regeneration initiatives through art.

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