Re: Mutilation as a legitimate object of inquiry

Adrienne Dearmas (DearmasA@AOL.COM)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 14:35:19 -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
> B. Removal of the clitoris in African native women
> C. Circumcision of infant males in Jewish/ANE cultures
> D. Foot binding, head binding, etc.
> E. Maori (and other) facial scarring and tattooing
> F. Tattoos voluntarily acquired by seaman, soldiers, and
> related groups (outlaw bikers, prisoners, etc.)
> G. Other decorative mutilations, cultural sanctioned or
> traditional, such as earlobe piercing
> H. Flagellation, hair shirts, etc. when self-inflicted
> I. Role-related castration (eunuchs and singers)
> J. Mutilation and tattooing beyond usual cultural norms
> K. Mutiliation as punishment (whippings, amputations and
> ear lobe cropping)
> A, B, C, and K and perhaps E are involved with rituals of one
> sort or another. D, F, G, H, and J are not.

I have to revisit this.

Footbinding (D) is a highly ritualized practice which is one of the few
mutilations which requires maintenance. Sorry, you don't get that one. (G)
Earlobe piercing (at least in the South) is considered a rite of passage and
incurs a small but nevertheless important ritual, usually restricted to the
women of the family. As I requested in the other post, I need clarification
on (J) in order to respond.

> > 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.
> A, B, C, I, yes. D, E, J, maybe. F, G, H, K, no.
> > The marking or mutilation of
> > the body may be associated then with the control or 'domestication' (for
> > want of a better term) of vital or ontological essence in the service of
> > entrance into a ritually and socially defined role.
> A, B, sort of. I, definitely. Others, not at all.

If I understand the point Kristian is making in discussing domestication (and
I like the idea), then mgm (A&C&I), fgm (B), footbinding (D), cranial
deformation (D), some forms of tattooing and scarrification and so on are all
a process of domesticating the essence of the individual
. Briefly, uncircumcised women cannot get married. Nor could Chinese women
with unbound feet. Assuming that a woman's purpose is to be married and have
children (Don't flame me, remember the context here!), her mutilations are
most definately domestication into her social role.

A thought - and I am_ not_ being nasty. I get the impression that it is only
Western forms of mutilations that are boring to Mike and that only those
concerning males which are important. I base this on his breakdown of
mutilations with merit as posted on 7-14-96. Am I wrong?

- Adrienne