Re: Mutilation as a legitimate object of inquiry

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 01:09:54 +0900

> The regions of the body selected for this mutilation is often
>identical to that of especial significance with respect to the
>localisation of vital or ontological essence or substance.

Where, moreover, ontological essence or substance may be, if not
equivalent, fundamental to identity. Even in the West, a "man of substance"
is one whose identity is solidly established in wealth, power, learning or
all three.What is curious is how the identities frozen in tattoos are, in
modern market-dominated societies largely restricted to marginal groups, so
that choosing to be tattooed, pierced, etc., is a sign of rebellion in
members of non-marginal groups, an attempt to freeze an identity in
opposition to the usual status games embodied in fashion (also restaurants,
cars, resorts, houses in the suburbs; transient signifiers all).

> I have had neither the courage nor the audacity to develop these
>ideas beyond the mere noting of a potential relationship, but perhaps
>this may be a profitable direction of inquiry if for no other reason than
>it is held up for repudiation in the face of a better or more
>comprehensive discussion of the matter. Nonetheless, the matter
>certainly does have potential for worthwhile research -- to add to the
>list of examples, one might also wish to include consideration of
>toyrtures directed towards certain regions of the body depending upon the
>crime during the Middle Ages. It may be illegitimate to try to develop
>an argument that encoompasses such disparate practices, but a grand
>mistake is more satisfying to make than just a little one !
> I expect alot of censure now :) !
>Best Regards,

It is interesting that the parts of the body where "substance" is located
are likely to be those where nerves that facilitate interaction with the
world outside the body are concentrated.I wonder about the significance of
locating tattoos and pierces on the back, chest, shoulders, ankles,
buttocks, etc.,which are normally concealed with clothing, vs. those on the
face and hands which seem more shocking to modern sensibilities?

No censure here.:-)

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo