Ethnographic Research- Tattoos

| July 29, 2016

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Tattoo Interviewing Exercise – From one culture to the next, body adornment is part of human expressiveness. During the last decade or so, tattooing has become increasingly common in many industrialized modern countries. Your assignment is to interview another person about his/her tattoo(s). Questions that should be asked include but are not limited to:


  1. Why did he/she decide to get a tattoo?


  1. Take a picture or sketch of the tattoo to include in your analysis. If your interviewee objects to this, this portion of the assignment may be skipped. In either case, describe the tattoo image and its location on the body.


  1. How did he/she decide where to have it placed?


  1. What does the tattoo symbolize to that person?


  1. How does your interviewee think different people react to the fact that he/she has a tattoo?


  1. Does the person who has it think that it has or will affect their social standing?



  1. After you have collected your field data, provide an anthropological analysis of the tattooing art in reference to the group of people that your interviewee represents (example: women, men, people in their 20s, 30s, parents, children, etc.) Your analysis should be in-depth. You must analyze the information you collected in reference to what we are learning in class, but also in reference to your understanding of the culture from which your informant comes.


For example, your interviewee may answer the questions from above (A-F) in one way, but as an anthropologist, you may find alternative explanations that address some of the following:


  • Does the tattoo give an indication of current (or past) social position?


  • Does the tattoo image symbolizes gender affiliation, an age set, or group membership?


  • Does the location of the tattoo on the body symbolize gender affiliation, an age set, or group membership?


  • What is the impact on the person in general American society given that they have a tattoo (hint: the right answer is NOT that there is no impact).


  • How does American style tattooing for the social class of person you interviewed differ from the ways that tattoos are often used in Non-western culture? How is it used the same?


  • Are there certain kinds of tattoo images particularly popular at this time? If you think so, why is this?


Provide the information from your interview (there is no page limit as to how much this will take). Then provide your analysis (the questions from g. above) in 8-10 double spaced pages (10-12 point Arial or Times New Roman font). Discuss your findings in reference to art, economics, groups affiliation, gender, and other themes we have covered in class. Your paper should be fully cited with any appropriate outside references indicated.

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