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This Essay Examines American And African Body Modifications And How We View Other Cultures

3621 words - 14 pages

Body Modifications Pertaining to CultureThroughout history people in nearly every culture have gone to great lengths to decorate or alter the bodies they were born with. From body painting to piercing to scarification, from tattoos to plastic surgery, from the Bronze Age to the computer age, cultures from around the world have changed their ideas of how a body should look, and have altered themselves to fit their standard of perfection. In doing so people have gone through drastic measures to achieve their goal of looking this way. In many different cultures people change themselves, and in many different ways do they find others beautiful and in certain cultures, their beauty is seen differently. By analyzing different forms of body modifications in both the American and African cultures we will be able to see how body modification is related to what is perceived to be beautiful in a culture. Studying the origin of body modifications and how they are used in each culture is necessary to compare the reasons and effects of body modifications in both America and Africa.One important way to change your body in both African and American cultures is the tattoo. The word, tattoo originally came from the word 'tatu' which in Tahitian means to mark something. They are the most popular body modification recorded in history, the number of people who have acquired tattoos, as of this moment, totals over 39 million people in North America alone. Tattoos can be dated back to 12000 years BC and are recorded to have been found in ancient Egyptian times, although researchers believe it was invented far before that. Tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and tradition. In Borneo, women tattooed their symbols on their forearm indicating their particular skill. If a woman wore a symbol indicating she was a skilled weaver, her status as prime marriageable material was increased. Tattoos around the wrist and fingers were believed to ward away illness. (Green 24)Most of the early uses of tattoos were ornamental, for decorating the body. However, a number of civilizations had practical applications for the modification. The Goths, a tribe of Germanic barbarians famous for pillaging Roman settlements, used tattoos to mark their slaves, much like the Nazi's did during the Holocaust. Romans did the same with slaves and criminals. In Tahiti, tattoos were a rite of passage and told the history of the person's life. Reaching adulthood, boys got one tattoo to commemorate the event. Men were marked with another style when they got married. When the Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled Bosnia, all the soldiers were tattooed by military authorities in order to recognize them in case they ever chose to leave. (McCabe 1)Later, tattoos became the souvenir of choice for sailors who had been to many ports around the world. Whenever they would reach a new location, they would triumphantly get another tattoo to mark they had been there. A dragon was a famous way of saying that...

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