This article introduces a new source - student graffiti - to university historians who want
to reconstruct the cultural history of student life. It shows how students at Utrecht University
used graffiti to construct identities for themselves and their peers. These playful
graffiti games have two important characteristics: (1) Graffiti do not simply describe the
world; rather they actively shape reality by constructing hierarchies among groups and
borders between groups. (2) Graffiti are materialsemiotic writing practices, in which
meaning is communicated through texts, images and symbols, as well as through writing
materials, colours and the physical surface on which the texts or drawings are scribbled.
University historians who want to use student graffiti should take these performative and
material aspects into account.