BMODs: Searching for subtle interpretations

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 18 Jul 1996 09:06:31 +0900

Over the past few days, I have been sketching a model in which BMODs are
broadly divided into things done *to* the body and things done *on* the
body, where, it seems to me, the former assert (relatively) permanent
identities while the latter lend themselves to the fluid gestures of the
endless war of all against all that is status competition in market-driven
economies. I have also noted, however, that specifics of style and situated
meaning are local to particular populations in particular historical

Consider, for example, a Japanese TV program, an historical drama set in
the Tokugawa period. The hero is a samurai and the magistrate in charge of
a district in old Edo. Like many of the heroes in this style of drama, he
has an undercover identity. At the end of every show he is sitting in his
magistrate's robes, in judgment over the villains he has apprehended while
playing his undercover role. The charge is read. The villains claim it
isn't true. Then the magistrate shrugs off his robe, revealing a gorgeous
cherry-blossom tattoo on his right shoulder. His official and undercover
roles are fused in a demonstration that he knows first-hand what the
villains have done.

In another example, a friend writes that many of the executives and
bureaucrats with whom she works have small tattoos that date back to their
participation in counter-culture movements during their student days in the
'60s. When the tattoos are revealed at parties they become an instant bond
between individuals whose official statuses keep them apart.

In both these cases, the tattoo is normally concealed while the individual
goes about his or her official business. Revealing the tattoo discloses a
dimension to identities that transcends official status.

Contrast, then, the tattoos worn by Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman which
are part of his public "bad boy" identity and flaunted openly as he goes
about his business, which happens to be playing basketball.

I would argue that in all three cases the individuals in question are
making statements about "Who I really am." Who they are specifically is, of
course, highly variable.

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