History and Cultural Diffusion of Tattoos in America

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Tattoos have been utilized in various ways for thousands of years, ranging from punishment, to status symbols and indications of religious beliefs. They have served as the ultimate illustration of cultural diffusion in America, and despite generally carrying a negative social stigma, perception of tattoos has continued to evolve into a more acceptable practice. The topic of tattoos in America can most effectively be summarized into two pivotal moments in history: the cultural diffusion of the practice through European immigration in the 1800s, and its diffusion from one socioeconomic class into a widespread movement in the last fifteen years through various media outlets. Tradition of humans permanently marking their bodies has consistently been utilized as a means of identification. Greeks used it as a form of punishment and branding of those considered as “others” which comprised of slaves and convicts- ideology that was then carried over into Roman culture as a tool of state control (Fisher, 2002). Indigenous tribes that lacked a written language applied tattoos as a system of visual communication. Both the Osage and Omaha tribes tattooed themselves based on success in warfare, bearing a skull on the back of their heads to signify victory in battle. Inuit men would mark on themselves how many whales they hunted, while ink on women conveyed marital status (Porcella, 2009). Despite a long-standing history in other cultures, it is emphasized that the Polynesian and Japanese cultures are largely responsible for the diffusion of tattoos into Western society. By the Age of Exploration, advancements that allowed Europeans to easily travel by sea broadened opportunities of exposure to other cultures. This is what enabled James Cook ... ... middle of paper ... ...ml?page=4 Kosut, M. (2006). An Ironic Fad: The Commodification And Consumption Of Tattoos. The Journal of Popular Culture, 39(6), 1035-1048. Retrieved November 29, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5931.2006.00333.x Sperry, K. (1991). Tattoos And Tattooing. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 12(4), 356. Retrieved November 29, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00000433-199112000-00042 Vail, D. A. (1999). Tattoos Are Like Potato Chips ... You Can't Have Just One: The Process Of Becoming And Being A Collector. Deviant Behavior, 20(3), 253-273. Retrieved November 29, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/016396299266498 West, T. (n.d.). The Taboo of Tattoos: Changes in Body Art during the New Deal and World War II. Journal of Research Across the Disciplines. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from http://www.ju.edu/jrad/documents/tiffanyw.pdf

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