Comparison and Analysis of The New Tattoo Subculture

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1) What are the central questions the author(s) are seeking to answer?
Why do people from all cultures alter or change their natural appearance?
How have tattoos become so popular in the last decade?

2) What are the procedures the authors use to seek answers to their basic questions?
The authors in this piece use the method of observation to help them answer their basic questions. Anne M. Velliquette and Jeff B. Murray use both ethnographic interviews and participant observation as the two primary sources of information. This data was gathered over a six month period in 1996, and then repeated for several months in 1997 to observe similarities or differences. Since the authors were "outsiders" of the tattoo world, they only had the perspective of observers. So, in order to combat this dilemma, Velliquette decided to become an "insider" by getting tattooed twice. The authors wanted to use the experiences of the tattooed people they interviewed, a long with Velliquette's own experiences as points of reference and as text in their data.

3) What are the major findings according to the authors(describe at least two)?
One of the major findings in the article has to do with the central question of the popularity of tattoos in recent history. The discovery is that the tattooist attempts to create an artistic feel to the process of getting a tattoo. According to the authors, they cited a specific example of this when the tattooist made sure that the client in her shop knew that the work being done was art, that her shop was a studio, and that the tattooist indentified herself as an artist. The tattoo industry has thus been able to show that tattoos are not just tattoos, they are a form of "body art" to the consumer. For this reason the authors were able to show that part of the reason that tattoos have grown in popularity is that some people who receive tattoos want to express themselves in an artistic manner, and getting a tattoo creates a permanent form of art on their body that designs,sculpts, or identifies the person.

Another major finding in the article has to do with the subculture of tattoos. The need to feel accepted is a very key element to a person's life. In the case of people with tattoos, part of the conclusion that was reached is that many of these people enjoy expressing themselves in a different style than others, and part of that style is by getting a tattoo to represent and display that difference. One woman in the article was quoted by the authors while she talked about what it meant to her to get a tattoo. She stated that one part of getting the tattoo that she really enjoyed is that she felt different in a unique way from other people. Her example was of Wal-Mart, as she said that when she would stand in the lines or walk around the store, she knew she was different by having the tattoo. It was an empowering thing for her that she was not only different from others in a small way, as we all individually are, but that the tattoo made her feel even more unique than many other people in the store. It is part of the new tattoo subculture that the tattoo-artist creates a sense of showmanship and artistic flare with each tattoo he or she does. By creating customized designs, patterns, and styles, the tattoo-artist is able to make the tattooed person feel like he or she has some unique about themselves that no one can take away from them.

The need to be different is one of the main reasons that tattoos have become so popular and exciting to American society.

4) How can you relate this article to your experiences or your understanding of how this article relates to your society in a larger context (think in terms of your education, government, economics, pop culture, or personal interests)?
My (Derek) cousin has a couple tattoos. Each one has a certain meaning and significance to him and his life. The one in particular that I believe most relates to this topic is the tattoo of "Dancing Nancies", also known as "The Fire Dancer". This tattoo is one of the main symbols of the Dave Matthews Band. Since my cousin has been a big fan of the group since it first started, and has actually met Dave Matthews in person, he decided to get the tattoo on his calf as a way of visually supporting the group. My cousin identified with the logo as something that contributes greatly to his lifestyle in terms of values, beliefs, and musical preference. Now that my cousin has this particular tattoo he knows that he is part of a group of fellow Dave Matthews Band supporters. When people see the tattoo on his calf, he can tell whether or not the people who talk to him are Dave Matthews supporters or knowledgeable about the group because true fans of the group identify that particular symbol with the band. Also, by getting the tattoo, my cousin has made himself even more unique than he naturally is by creating a piece of "art" on his body to show support for his favorite band.

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"Dancing Nancies"


5) How would you critique the article in terms of what it has accomplished and what it has failed to accomplish?
This article did a fantastic job of documenting an extensive amount of research. The detail that the article was able to provide stemmed directly from the ability of the authors to collect a plethora of data and data points. The information provided from Velliquette and Murray allowed the reader to submerge themselves into a tattoo parlor and take in the sights, sounds, and show that this industry has created in order to promote a healthy and well-respected reputation.

Taking the reader through the need to "individually identify" with a tattoo and the identity that the tattoo is supposed to portray was very well done. The article went into depth on what tattoos have meant for people in ancient history, all the way up through today's culture. One of the main parts of this article was that the person getting the tattoo was able to express themselves through the use of body art, and the tattoo-artist was able to bring that fantasy to life through ink.

Overall this was one of the best and most thorough articles we have read thus far.