Re: Modifying the Body (Was Mutilations, Tattos, etc.)

John Pastore (bwplacar@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 21:50:54 +0000

On 16 Jul 96 at 9:51, John McCreery wrote:

> Cyril Belshaw has made an important point. Our casual use of
> "mutilation" to refer to modifications of the body does have a
> nasty, ethnocentric ring to it.


Sure does. Not unlike the connotation "human sacrifice" can have.
Also the separation of "Mutilation" and "Tatoos" as if one could, or
could not be considered mutilation.

Perhaps a term like 'body modifications' might be more neutral.

Also the points being brought up about just how qualified
anthropologists are in studying their own cultures or, at least,
what some might consider their culture's more blatant
'idiosyncracticies' reminds me of how past historians of the United
States, and present historians of Mexico, for example, who were, or
are, not from those countries respectively, were generally regarded
as the more objective historians for the main reason that the
historians from those countries were simply too immersed in their own
cultures to not see the leaves for the trees.

There is, I think, an Australian aboriginee on the list, and I wonder
what his comments might be. Especially in an analogy brought up of
by what a Maori of New Zealand might think about a biker's tatoos.

I took exception to the comments made on that one in that it gave the
impression that a Maori would be disinterested in the tatoos of, say,
an anthropologist or biker because it would be "missing the meat of
their culture". I was speculating, for example, that if a Maori did
view the tatoos of a biker, the Maori would be terribly interested
not in the tatoos per se, but their themes.

Knives through hearts, "Kill", etc. It might make a Maori really
wonder. I don't see "I Love Mama" being so unwonderful though.
I think soldiers who tatooed that one would be understood.

If for no other reason that when examined dead after a battle, after
perhaps stripped for plunder, such a tatoo would serve notice that
they had mother's they loved too.

John Pastore
Hotel Plaza Caribe
Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mx