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Body Art And Ornamentation Essay

1754 words - 8 pages

It seems more and more common these days that many people decorate or alter their body for various reasons. All around the world, people put decorations on and sometimes in their bodies to identify themselves as individuals, identify a social status, achievement or other personal meeting. They scar, paint, pierce, shape, and adorn their skin. These modifications are how people portray their identities and the social groups to which they belong and interact. Each of these social groups has various forms of body art or decoration that represents various times or events during their lives. The style of body decoration used by a person may be indicative of their age, job, gender, wealth, power or even status. Body decoration can be a way of making the body attractive by emphasizing a specific part of the body. Skin decoration can either be permanent or temporary, socially acceptable or socially challenging, or even painful or enjoyable.
Body modification has had a long history (Wohlrab, Stahl, & Kappeler, 2007). These modifications are popular with various cultures all around the world for varying reasons. Although the way the body is modified varies with different geographical locations, many of the modifications have a specific meaning for their own culture. These modifications can often be part of a rite of passage which Arnold Van Gennep defined as when “we move from one status to another within the lifecycle” (Crapo, 6.4). Each culture has its own rites of passages that are handed down from generation to generation with their own significance. Piercings is an example of body modification that is popular in many cultures today and started as an initiation rite in some cultures. It is reported that in Australia as many as one in five young women have a body piercing, while one in 10 have a tattoo (Jenny 2001). Tattoos have a special role throughout history, rich in culture and significance both to the individual and to their social groups dating back to at least the Upper Paleolithic period (Crapo, 2.3). These tattoos and piercings were used as a sign of religious affiliation, social status, strength or aesthetic reasons. In each society, body art and ornamentation has evolved into countless variations and themes.
Body modification was popular with working class members as early as the start of the 20th century, particularly with sailors. The associations of tattoos has changed over time and these days it can be affiliated with certain groups including inmates and bikers (Crapo, 2.3), but this in no way limits what groups participate in these modifications. In the 1990s, the gay and punk movements took up invasive body modification. According to Wohlrab, Stahl, and Kappeler (2007), modification of the body remained a provocative part of various European subcultures, until the 1990s. However, in recent times, tattoos have become tremendously popular, rising in both numbers and range of social classes that use them across many social...

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