Places, shapes, tools and gestures in six American cities, 1960–2020

Since the end of the 20th century, we are observing the emergence of an “urban efficiency of the sign” and a linear cursivity specific to the era of the ballpoint pen and the globalized metropolis. At the crossroads of the methodologies of paleography (deciphering, morphology of the letter and analysis by the ductus) and logics specific to epigraphy (the painted architectural letter, locations and scales), we will detail the evolution of the forms of the globalized Latin alphabet through six case studies of name graffiti in North and South America: the identitarian writing-signatures of Los Angeles (Cholo Writing), New York (Tags & Throws) and Philadelphia (Tall Hands & Wickeds) in the United States, São Paulo (Pixação) in Brazil, as well as Tijuana (Trepes) and Monterrey (Ganchos) in Mexico. Resulting from immersive field work, the corpus, made up of photographs, videos, architectural diagrams and various representations of the dynamics of the graphic gesture, will make it possible to propose an in-depth epigraphic analysis of this unexpected but significant evolution of the Latin letter in relation to urban landscapes and to study “tags” from a formal perspective, as geographically rooted calligraphic schools.

Thèse de doctorat menée au sein de l’école doctorale n°472 (Université PSL–EPHE, École Pratique des Hautes Études) dans l’unité de recherche Saprat (EA4116, Histoire de l’écrit : Savoirs et pratiques du moyen-âge à l’époque contemporaine). Travaux co-dirigés par Marc Smith (paléographie, PSL EPHE – École nationale des chartes, Paris) et Alice Savoie (typographie, ANRT, Nancy), depuis novembre 2022

Soutenance envisagée en 2026