The Antisocial Skin: Structure, Resistance, and "Modern Primitive" Adornment in the United States (Daniel Rosenblatt, 1992)


Read my paper on the Modern Primitives

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.


The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion (Mircea Eliade; 1959)


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.


The Rites of Passage (Van Gennep, 1969)

Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification (Lars Krutak, 2012)


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 yant 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 yank 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.