Re: Mutilation as a legitimate object of inquiry

Adrienne Dearmas (DearmasA@AOL.COM)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 14:34:31 -0400

In a message dated 96-07-14 13:33:06 EDT, ms44278@HUEY.CSUN.EDU (mike shupp)

> Let's be more specific, and consider some concrete examples of
> body mutilations/markings:
> A. Perforation of the ureter in Australian aborigine males

This is one of many ways to mutilate the penis and as a category known as
male genital mutilation, counts (with tattoo/scarification) as one of the
most widespread practices cross culturally.

> B. Removal of the clitoris in African native women

Also occurs in parts of the Middle East, Asia, and much to the consternation
and discomfort of Westerners throughout Europe, Australia and the US, is
relatively concentrated in North Africa with occasional occurence in central

> C. Circumcision of infant males in Jewish/ANE cultures

What are ANE cultures?

> D. Foot binding, head binding, etc.

One (footbinding) had social impact directed at females. The other (cranial
deformation) was performed on both sexes. Both are indications of status.

> E. Maori (and other) facial scarring and tattooing
> F. Tattoos voluntarily acquired by seaman, soldiers, and

Which were presumably (according to Hambly, Cook, Bulwer) learned from Maori
(and other) .

> related groups (outlaw bikers, prisoners, etc.)

Who, presumably acquired the art as passed down by the above. Again, I ask,
at one point in the transmigration of a cultural trait does it become the
cultures own? Is there a time limit?

> G. Other decorative mutilations, cultural sanctioned or
> traditional, such as earlobe piercing

Ear piercing is only decorative on the surface. It, like other more intense
mutilations carries its own "deep meaning".

> H. Flagellation, hair shirts, etc. when self-inflicted

Not permanent.

> I. Role-related castration (eunuchs and singers)

As opposed to what other kind of castration?

> J. Mutilation and tattooing beyond usual cultural norms

Whose cultural norms?

> K. Mutiliation as punishment (whippings, amputations and
> ear lobe cropping)

Whippings? Ear lobe cropping, like digit cropping?

Body mutilations can be more succinctly grouped according body areas.
osteomutilations: cranial deformations, footbinding, corseting, dental
mutilations (including orthodoctics), some forms of cosmetic surgery.
dermalmutilations (I think I just created a new word?): tattooing,
scarification, branding, piercing, cosmetic surgeries, labretifery.
genital mutilations: clitoridectomy, infibulation, castration, circumcision,
sibincision, bifurcation.

Although this takes away cultural meaning, it reveals that there is a method
to the madness. It would be counterproductive to have a culturally sanctioned
practice which lopped of say, oldest son's left hand. How do they become
productive members of society? Hands and with the exception of footbinding,
feet, are usually spared because they are tools of the body. But other than
those, and maybe eyes, not much else is spared.

On a personal level, I still have trouble with neck stretching and where it
fits into this model. Having done very little research in this area, I am not
too worried about it - but b/c of it I have discarded the model. I use it
here to combat what I perceived as a less than comprehensive breakdown that
Mike provided.

I understand that Mike was merely naming some practices to use in combatting
a previous post; and I agree we should get specific, but let's be specific in
our method for choosing practices. I think what he did show is that the
models for analysis proposed were not sufficient enough to encompass all

- Adrienne