Research Repository

A Medium, Not a Phenomenon: An Argument for an Art-Historical Approach to Western Tattooing

Lodder, Matthew (2022) 'A Medium, Not a Phenomenon: An Argument for an Art-Historical Approach to Western Tattooing.' In: Martell, James and Larsen, Erik, (eds.) Tattooed Bodies: Theorizing Body Inscription Across Disciplines and Cultures. Palgrave Studies in Fashion and the Body book series (PSFB) . Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 13-42.

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Tattooing in the West has long been of great interest to scholars from a range of academic disciplines, including anthropology, criminology, and psychology, as well as to philosophers and theorists. In this chapter, I argue that these approaches are almost all flawed in various ways, as they develop their accounts on the back of historical sources and modern misconceptions which are partial, error-strewn, and in several key cases outright fabrications. Theoretical accounts which purport to think about who has been tattooed, in what circumstances, with what images, to what effect and for what reasons almost all undertake their theoretical work quixotically, tilting at an understanding of the practice and the industry of tattooing which is fundamentally misguided. To attempt to provide a new bedrock upon which scholars in these diverse disciplines can realign future work, I propose here the outlines of a methodological proposition for thinking about Western tattooing as a historically contingent artistic practice, in which tattoo artists and the images they produce are foregrounded, and in which longstanding misconceptions about the historical trajectories of tattooing can begin to be corrected. I argue for the importance of primary source historical work in private collections; for a mode of analysis which understands tattooing as a medium and not a phenomenon; and ultimately for the utility of scholarship from art historians and art theorists on the production and reception of images in more traditional media to the studying of tattooing in Western contexts.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Tattooing; Art History; Methodology
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2022 11:32
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2022 11:32

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