The Antisocial Skin: Structure, Resistance, and "Modern Primitive" Adornment in the United States. (Rosenblatt, Daniel)

My aims in this article are twofold: first, to illuminate the activities of U.S. modern primitives by placing them in their cultural and historical context and, second, to use this example to make a general argument about resistance move- ments and their relation to existing social and cultural structures. In analyzing modern primitives I show how they mobilize both basic Western understandings of the world as embodied in cosmogonic mythology and classical economic theory (Sahlins 1996) and more immediate and historically particular American ideas about selves, society, and experience (Cannon 1989; Fox and Lears 1983; Lears 1983; McCracken 1988). In the process, I deploy a conception of cultural systems that understands them less as determinants of social activity and more as providing a framework for such activity—that is, as constituting the possibility of meaning. It is these "conditions of meaningfulncss" that I seek to explore for the practices represented in Modern Primitives.

Read More

The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion. (Eliade, Mircea)

In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade observes that while contemporary people believe their world is entirely profane, or secular, they still at times find themselves connected unconsciously to the memory of something sacred. It's this premise that both drives Eliade's exhaustive exploration of the sacred; as it has manifested in space, time, nature and the cosmos, and life itself; and buttresses his expansive view of the human experience.

Read More

The Rites of Passage. (Gennep, Van)

Birth, puberty, marriage, and death are, in all cultures, marked by ceremonies which may differ but are universal in function. Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) was the first anthropologist to note the regularity and significance of the rituals attached to the transitional stages in man's life, and his phrase for these, "the rites of passage," has become a part of the language of anthropology and sociology.

Read More

Tattoo Time Magazine. (Hardy, Ed)

Tattootime truly changed the world—documents, ideas, and images that have become legendary. Now experience its timeless impact.

Now all five Tattootimes — New Tribalism (1982), Tattoo Magic (1983), Music & Sea Tattoos (1984), Life & Death Tattoos (1987), and Art From the Heart (1991) are in two beautiful hardbound volumes, enclosed in a sturdy slipcase. All contents are from the first edition of each original—subsequent reprints omitted some material. The combined volumes add up to 352 full color pages, plus original covers, and an added 27-page subject and title index to the entire series.

Read More

Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body. (Rubin, Arnold)

Body piercing, scarification, tattooing - for thousands of years decorative alteration of the human body has been invested with profound cultural and social meaning. This collection of essays, photographs and drawings focuses on the many and diverse ways that human beings have permanently decorated their bodies. The book grew out of a symposium entitled "Art of the Body" held at the University of California, Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Contributors encompass the fields of anthropology, sociology, art history, archaeology and folklore. The geographical and historical perspectives are from Europe and Euro-America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Basin (Asia, Oceania, and Native America). The book's text and photographs acknowledge body art as a meaningful part of human behaviour. What dominates throughout is the recognition of artistic potency, mysterious or commonplace, that is a part of marking the body.

Read More

Convict Tattoos: Marked men and women of Australia. (Barnard, Simon)

Read my review of Convict Tattoos here.

At least thirty-seven per cent of male convicts and fifteen per cent of female convicts were tattooed by the time they arrived in the penal colonies, making Australians quite possibly the world’s most heavily tattooed English-speaking people of the nineteenth century.

Each convict’s details, including their tattoos, were recorded when they disembarked, providing an extensive physical account of Australia’s convict men and women.

Simon Barnard has meticulously combed through those records to reveal a rich pictorial history. Convict Tattoos explores various aspects of tattooing—from the symbolism of tattoo motifs to inking methods, from their use as means of identification and control to expressions of individualism and defiance—providing a fascinating glimpse of the lives of the people behind the records.

Read More

The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (Campbell, Joseph)

Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.

As part of the Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, this third edition features expanded illustrations, a comprehensive bibliography, and more accessible sidebars.

As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists—including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers—and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.

Read More

Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification. (Krutak, Lars)

Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION. Wisdom. Healing. Shamanic Power. Protection is a photographic masterwork in two parts exploring the secret world of magical tattooing and scarification across the tribal world. Based on one decade of tattoo anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak’s fieldwork among animistic and shamanic societies of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Melanesia, Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION journeys into highly sacred territory to reveal how people utilize ritual body modification to enhance their access to the supernatural.

The first part delves into the ancient art of Thai tattooing or sak yan that is administered by holy monks who harness the energy and power of the Buddha himself. Emblazoned with numerous images of dramatically tattooed bodies, this chapter provides tattoo enthusiasts with a passport into the esoteric world of sak yan symbols and their meanings. Also included is an in-depth study into the tattooing worlds of the Amerindians. From Woodlands warriors to Amazonian shamans, tattoos were worn as enchanted symbols embodied with tutelary and protective spirit power. The discussion of talismanic tattooing is concluded with a detailed look at the individuals who created magical tattoos and the various techniques they used. Krutak writes about many tribal tattoo designs permeated with various forms of power and explains what these marks mean for the people who wear them. Part two of Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION is an absolute must-read-and-see for anyone seeking knowledge about the religious meanings of tribal scarification. The rituals, techniques, and spiritual iconography of scarmasters in Benin (Bétamarribé), Papua New Guinea (Kaningara), and Ethiopia (Hamar) expose a relatively undocumented world of permanent body symbolism created through painful and bloody rites of self-sacrifice and restraint. Text in English & German.

Read More

Tattoo: Bodies, Art, and Exchange in the Pacific and the West - History of Tatooing. (Eds. Thomas, Nicholas Cole, Anna Douglas, Bronwen)

The history of tattooing is shrouded in controversy. Citing the Polynesian derivation of the word “tattoo,” many scholars and tattoo enthusiasts have believed that the modern practice of tattooing originated in the Pacific, and specifically in the contacts between Captain Cook’s seamen and the Tahitians. Tattoo demonstrates that while the history of tattooing is far more complex than this, Pacific body arts have provided powerful stimuli to the West intermittently from the eighteenth century to the present day. The essays collected here document the extraordinary, intertwined histories of processes of cultural exchange and Pacific tattoo practices. Art historians, anthropologists, and scholars of Oceania provide a transcultural history of tattooing in and beyond the Pacific.

Read More

Modern Primitivism: Non-Mainstream Body Modification and Racialized Representation. (Klesse, Christian)

This article focuses on the philosophy underpinning the non-mainstream body modification practices of `Modern Primitives'. This subculture seeks inspiration in the body modification techniques and bodily rituals of so-called `primitive societies'. Establishing their prioritization of body, sexuality, community and spirituality as analytical links, the author shows that these self-perceived radical opponents of Western modernity nonetheless remain captured in its foundational discursive assumptions. The author argues that the movement's enthusiastic turn towards `primitivism' represents a particular identity strategy within the late modern condition. Drawing on colonial discourse analysis, the author argues that the primitivist discourse originated as an ideology within colonialism and has informed the construction of the Western self-image. Modern Primitives' notion of `primitivism' is seen as a postcolonial legacy of this tradition of `othering', which inevitably reproduces stereotypes of racialized people.

Read More

Written on the Body: The Tattoo in European and American History. (Ed. Caplan, Jane)

Despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing—and the immense popularity of tattoos themselves—the practice has not left much of a historical record. And, until very recently, there was no good context for writing a serious history of tattooing in the West. This collection exposes, for the first time, the richness of the tattoo's European and American history from antiquity to the present day. In the process, it rescues tattoos from their stereotypical and sensationalized association with criminality.

Read More