Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Kathleen Kane

Commitee Members

Brady Harrison, H. Rafael Chacón


Banksy, socially engaged art, art, aesthetics, minor aesthetic categories, defamiliarization, graffiti


University of Montana


Taking Viktor Shklovsky’s notion of defamiliarization as its starting point, this paper considers two twenty-first century aesthetic shifts resulting from the conditions of post-Fordist capitalism: the appearance of socially engaged art practices as delineated by Nato Thompson in Living as Form and the prevalence of what Sianne Ngai refers to as “minor aesthetic categories” within those practices. This project explores the political efficacy and theoretical possibilities of socially engaged art practices--practices which necessarily utilize minor aesthetic categories due to their ubiquity--through close examination of the graffiti artist Banksy’s exhibit, Better Out Than In. Graffiti is associated with the destruction of private property and urban decay and is not typically classified as art. However, the immense popularity of the graffiti artist Banksy indicates that popular culture believes otherwise. Thus, Banksy serves as an interesting case study for analyzing socially engaged art practices in the twenty-first century. While not prescriptive, the paper strives to simply identify the ways Banksy utilizes minor aesthetic categories to engage in social practice art—art that tries to reconfigure the traditional relationship between the work and the viewer--in order to identify the aesthetic realities of the twenty-first century and the changing role of the twenty-first century artist.



© Copyright 2015 Margaret Henry