Reclaiming the Skin: The Tattooing and Piercing YOUTH Revolution and the Body-Skin-Mind Problem

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 63
Oral Presentation
Vessela MISHEVA , Uppsala University, Sweden
All modern countries have recently experienced a “tattoo Renaissance.” This has become an essential part of what is here termed a movement for self-rights, the main driving force of which have been adolescents and young adults. Although tattooing and piercing, even in their more extreme forms, are generally no longer regarded as signs of social deviance, they are still viewed as “self-sabotage” since they not only pose a threat to physical and mental health, but also matter in recruitment for a range of jobs, especially those involving a business brand.

This paper examines the relationships between self, social roles, tattoos as self-brands, and business brands. Only after attention became directed to the employment problems that people with extensive and visible body modifications sometimes encounter did it became obvious that an individual’s skin is a contested territory that is as much a part of an individual’s body as it is a part of the role, over which the employer rules. Tattooing as a social phenomenon is thus an appropriate object for the study of the individual-society controversy, where the battle for the primary self, which is as much individual as it is social, becomes a form of rebellion in the name of self-rights and the reclaiming of the skin. The revolutions of previous centuries may have liberated the body, and even the mind, but they never included the skin.

Studying tattooing as a new social phenomenon, coupled with new developments in psychoanalysis (Anzieu), may radically advance the theory of self. The body-mind problem remains a philosophical problem because philosophy has not thematized the third party in the relationship, which both divides and unites them – the skin. The body-skin-mind problem thus provides a new starting point and philosophical platform for socio-psychological discussions of self.