9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Old and New Individualisms II Building II, C4.07

Declaration of "me-ness" - A search for individuality through involvement in tattooing in post-transformative Poland

The aim of this study is to examine tattoo acquisition in the context of an emerging individualized society in post-transformative Poland. It will be argued that rising involvement in tattooing in Poland reflects transforming patterns of identity formation and a way of marking one?s interdependency. By analyzing the narratives of male and female tattoo enthusiasts, this study looks to explore tattooing as a meaningful and reflexive body practice involved in a broader biographical strategy and the process of identity construction. It will be shown that the decision to acquire a tattoo is based not only on the desire to alter one?s physical appearance, as opposed to other body modification strategies, but also as a way of altering and reinforcing one?s self-definition, enabling self-expression, and affect management. However, it will be suggested that tattooing should not be solely understood as a manifestation of ?hyperindividuality?, but as a practice structured by social relations and an indicator of individual ?interdependences? and embeddedness in broader culture. As such, involvement in tattooing can be understood as a symbolic way of differentiating or positioning oneself within the broader community and a cultural commentary, which reflects social meanings behind tattooing and enables individuals to negotiate normalizing pressures surrounding the body and ?self?.
The theoretical basis for this study is founded on Grounded Theory. Qualitative data was collected in Poland through fifteen in-depth interviews with tattoo enthusiasts (aged 23-50 years) having at least three tattoos and analyzed using the MaxQDA computer program. Interviews focused on when and in what circumstances the tattoos were acquired, the motivation for getting a tattoo, and what significance the tattoo holds for the individual. Photos were also taken of participants? tattoos, which were then visually analyzed for symbolism and body location by the researcher.