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108: Tattoos

_regrets”>Tattoos in Austrailia: Perceptions, Trends, and Regrets (McCrindle)
The rise and rise of the tattoo (The Guardian)
Are Tattoos Fashion? Applying the Social Change Theory (Ohio University – Thesis of Tasha A Agustin)


Full episode text

A person’s body, in a social world, takes on much more meaning than purely a body. Instead, a body is also considered a philosophical, psychological, and spiritual representation of an individual as a whole. This makes it not at all unusual that how one chooses to handle their body also becomes a social, philosophical, psychological, and spiritual representation in addition to a physical reality. When it comes to tattoos, that can be a very fraught expression.

Near as historians can tell, humans have been creating permanent ink marks in their skin for over five thousand years. It’s been an incredibly common practice. Yet in both the Western world, and some Eastern countries, tattoos have a very unsavory reputation. Associated with criminals, organized crime, and prisoners, tattoos were considered a social stigma.

Part of this may stem from the fact that the Greeks used tattoos as a form of punishment, as did Japan in the Edo period. In China and Japan, tattoos were often used by organized crime to “mark” their newly-initiated family members. In both situations, a tattoo became a way to indelibly mark someone for a change in their life.

Yet times have also changed. Now, around 12% of Australians have tattoos, 20% of Brits are inked, around 15-20% of Americans, and even the infamous Japanese Yakuza – which used to be identified by their tattoos – are reportedly encouraging their members to go either clean-skinned or get their tattoos removed before they can move up in the organization.

Even so, it’s a minority of individuals that choose to get inked, and doing so is often a very personal decision though there’s an interesting argument to be made that tattoos are really as much fashion as personal decision. So what do you think about tattoos? Do you have one? Would you get one? Of what?