Inked Lives: Tattoos, Identity, and Power

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Garcia-Merritt, Gabriel
Iowa State University
Arizona; Body Document; Deviance; Identity; Identity Management; Tattoos
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thesis / dissertation description
Tattoos are culturally rich forms of self-expression and fulfillment, and hold power for their owners, both internally and externally. The purpose of this study is to examine the ways, and the reasons, tattoos are important Body Documents of identity, as well as their perceived role in making their wearer distinct within specific cultural environments. I examined this dynamic through a summer of participant observation and a series of interviews with participants within the Phoenix, Arizona area during the summer of 2012. This thesis finds that tattoos are powerful identity markers because of their social projections and meanings in the greater social formation. The power of tattoos lays in their oppositional nature to the status quo, and the ability of people with tattoos to use them as tools for contesting existing power structures and accepted body ideologies.