The Body as Image - an Analysis of the Postmodern Characteristics of Tattoos in Contemporary Society

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Synopsis, Marketing and Culture

The body as image - An analysis of the postmodern characteristics of tattoos in contemporary society

Introduction

In recent years few terms have been so widely discuss as ”postmodernism” in order to define its basic principals. Despite a lack of consensus, most authorities agree that postmodernism represents some kind of reaction to, or departure from, modernism and modernity (Brown 1993). The consumer of the modern society is distinguished by being self-reflexive and rational while the characteristics of the irrational postmodern consumer are hyperreality, fragmentation, reversals of production and consumption, decentring of the subject, paradoxical juxtapositions, and loss of commitment (Firat et al, 1995). The ability and willingness to represent different self-images in fragmented moments liberates the consumer from conformity to a single image, to seeking continuity and consistency among roles played throughout life. This self-referential identity of the postmodern consumer, and the general hostility towards generalization together with the rejection of the idea that human social experience has fundamental “real” bases are possibly the main defining differences between modernism and postmodernism (Firat et al, 1995). Despite the seemingly transformation in consumer behaviour modern marketing theory (e.g. Kotler, Porter, Ansoff etc.) of costumer segmentation and categorizing customers is still widely accepted and used by companies in the western society.

In the following I will through an analysis of the phenomena, tattoos, try to identify some of the characteristics of the postmodern consumer in order to establish an underlying basis of whether the change in consumer behaviour should be considered important to a change or re-writing of modern marketing theory.

Tattoos in contemporary society
One of the most drastic and highly debated types of consumption within the field of bodily consumption, is tattoos. 20-30 years ago tattoos were something only to be experience in the underground milieu among sailors, punks, bikers and other more or less dubious types. But in recent years tattoos has undergone a renaissance and become a more common piece of personal decoration and part of the modern popular culture. Not only the consumers of tattoos, but the tattooists - the cultural intermediaries - has undergone this transformation to a more modern profile. Being considered a deviant behaviour in the mid-twentieth century, and associated with people on the margins of society, tattooing has undergone what is generally referred to as a renaissance (Sanders 1989; Rosenblatt 1997; Velliquette and Murray 1999). The phenomenon has spread to great parts of the population, and today more than 600.000 Danes have one or more tattoos. This renaissance has made tattoos a fashionable way of adorning the body and has transformed it to a mass consumer practice. (Bengtsson, Kjeldgaard, Ostberg 2005).

Based on the above-mentioned and in the article “Noget i ærmet” the following paragraph will discuss whether or not a modern marketing tool simplified in a pre-constructed schematically model of mutual cultural conceptions can be useful in order to understand identity and social stratification.

Kim Yde Larsen is a manager in one of Denmark’s largest companies, LEGO. Kim used to be what he describes as a “nice” boy. At the age of 30 he wanted to break the “pattern” and changed his social circle and had his first tattoo done and like his friends he acquired more in the following years. “I do it whenever I fell there’s a need for something new. I considered it for many years, because I desired another form of identity, so I found one (a tattoo) which tells something about my character” Kim obviously uses his body as a medium in his identity creation to establish an image, both in relation to himself and others. You might even say that this has a certain self-branding aspect to it. Asked about...
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