Tattoos In Modern Society

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The art of tattooing evolved independently in various cultures around the world and served extremely diverse purposes. Tattoos have been used to signal social, political or religious groups, a form of self-expression, oppression, or even a fashion statement. In this essay I would like to explore how they have evolved in society as a way of repressing and liberating different cultures, and how the art of tattoo has become an enriching and artistic means of expression within our modern world. They can convey stigma, as in the branding of prisoners or the marginalized, as seen with the theories within “Ornament and Crime”, the number stamping of Nazi concentration camp victims, or slave owners branding marks. But can contrarily also be extraordinarily…show more content…
Its historical pertinence stemmed from its original use of marking criminals. The tattoo was most likely imprinted through the method of pricking the design onto the forehead with a needle tied to the end of a stick, and then rubbing in a permanent ink. First crimes were marked with a line across the forehead. A second crime was marked by adding an arch, and the third crime provided another line. Together these marks formed the Japanese character for "dog". It appears this was the original "Three strikes you’re out" law. This demonstrates an early use of how a culture used the tattoo to associate criminal behaviour. This ideal seemed to continue into the 5thC laws. The lower classes were prohibited from wearing the adorned kimonos; restricting them to only be worn by royalty and the prestigious elitist classes. As a fundamental part of their culture, the lower classes were outraged, and rebelled by adopting tattoo body suits. The illustrations which began at the neck and extended to the elbow and knee contained all the kimonos lavish designs, but was permanently worn in secret under clothes. This technique was seen as subversive to the law and the government banned the art in 1870. Similar to the occurrences of the late 19th century in Europe, the suggestion of tattoos and criminals was prominent in Japan. This only led to a new era of underground marksmanship in which the art of…show more content…
The Polynesians would wound themselves with a thin sharp implement before rubbing in a coarse black powder, leaving behind a design. The natives called this ritual ‘tataow’ which was then renamed to tattoo by the discoverers. They were perceived as primitive savages. “They all came naked, without any part covered; their faces and bodies in patterns of a blue colour, painted with fish and other patterns.”(Spanish navigator Pedro Fernandez de Quiros) This colonial superiority complex heightened the divide between these cultures and stereotyped the tattoo as uncivilized. It became an emblem of the exotic, a ‘curiosity’, as the indigenous body becoming a representation of artistic colonisation by the European imperial gaze, a way to repress an alternative culture. Orientalism can clearly be seen through the enslavement of the ‘Painted Prince of Miangis’. Captured by William Dampier, he was put on display as an example of the ‘painted people’, for all of England to marvel, until he eventually died. This hierarchical attitude seemed to be reinforced by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Although perceived by the Victorians as strengthening Britain as a dynamic, industrialised modern world in progress; Raymond Williams stated, “What then happened in biology was a generalization of the sense of development (fully bringing out) from

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