Annotated Bibliography of Articles on the Cultural Significance of Tattooing
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Tattooing: Culturally Significant and Contemporarily Popular Skin Art
Reed, Carrie E. (2000). Tattoo in Early China. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 120(3) 360-377. Author Carrie Read reports on ancient tattooing in China, beginning with the Tang dynasty (618-907). Barbarians tattooed their bodies according to tribal beliefs and slaves were tattooed as punishment, Read explains (361). In the Kirghiz culture women tattooed the "nape of the neck" to indicate marital status. This is a very interesting scholarly source.
Kosut, Mary. (2006). An Ironic Fad: The Commodification and Consumption of Tattoos. The Journal of Popular Culture, 39(6), 1035-1047. For the curious person who wishes to know why the American pop culture has gone wild about tattoos, and whom the tattooed stars in movie, sports, and music are, this is the perfect scholarly article. Kosut explains why tattooing has gone mainstream based on her six years of "ethnographic research."
Schildkrout, Enid (2004). Inscribing the Body. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33(1), 319-344. This article is basically a literature review from an anthropological perspective. Interesting references are offered identifying tattooing as culturally important in Papua New Guinea, among the Maori in New Zealand (who use flesh drawings to "stamp into the mind" that culture's traditions), and in Polynesia where tattoos link people with spirits (Schildkrout, 321).