Modern Primitivism: Non-Mainstream Body Modification and Racialized Representation (Christian Klesse, 1999)


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.