Deviance and Tattoo

Topics: Sociology, Tattoo, Culture Pages: 5 (1541 words) Published: January 7, 2011
Tattooing: Art or Deviant Act?

The action of tattooing has caused much discussion in public. Is tattooing actually an art or only a deviant act? From different angles, different ages or even different occupation to see this issue, we can have totally distinct responses. Once upon a time, So in order to understand the present situation of tattooing and its future trend, I found two Hong Kong local tattoo sites and one Australian tattoo site with some collected data to have my analysis.

Historical Opinions toward Tattoo
In the ancient China, tattoo was treated as a kind of serious punishment. When a criminal was found guilty in committing a severe crime, the judge would probably place a tattoo on his face. The tattoo could last permanently to show the identity of this man, a criminal. For instance, in the Qin (Chin) dynasty, even some princes were found guilty and ‘tattooed’. And tattooing is one of the most severe punishments in ancient China, just like exile. Only in particular case, tattooing was given the positive response. Yue Fei, as a National Hero in the Southern Song Dynasty, helped emperor to defend the enemies but finally killed by the emperor. When he was only 6-year-old, he got a tattoo from her mother to educate him to maintain loyalty to the emperor. But the tattoo was also not on the face for everybody to see, it was on the back and provide the meaning of loyalty. As for western culture, in ancient Rome, criminals and slaves are tattooed for the sake that people can recognize their identity easily. During the time that the Christian religion ruled Europe, tattooing was also forbidden by religion. Even in 19 century’s America, when a criminal was released from prison, he had to be tattooed. Moreover, a Jewish with tattoo is not allowed to be buried in family graveyard. So, according to the information above, we can find that tattoo was treated as punishment or deviance in mainstream culture during ancient time.

Tattoo artists’ attitudes
Though historical points of view can influent society’s present opinion towards tattoo, people’s attitude has still been changing. In the three Hong Kong local tattoo websites, positive meanings and responses are given all the time. In Kenny Chin (a tattoo artist of SOLO TATTOO)’s opinion, tattoo is just a sign of personality, it is in the same position of fashionable dress. The only difference between them is that tattoo is permanently ‘drew’ on human body. We can see that tattoo artists in Hong Kong treat tattoo as art and refuse to call it ‘deviant act’. On the other hand, those foreign tattoo artists from ROSE TATTOO are more willing to accept that tattoo is a deviant art, and even use the ‘deviant’ meaning to attract more teen customers.

Interview of tattooed person
In order to find out more solid arguments, I interviewed a tattooed person. Here is the basic information of the first one.

|Name |Region |Age |Occupation |Age of first tattoo |Attitude to tattoo | |Deng Li |China Mainland |20 |Student |17 |Looks cool |

Deng Li, now a mainland university student who is studying in Si Chuan Province. At the age of 13, for the first time he began to learn something about so called ‘Non-mainstream’ culture(1) which is popular among some of the Chinese 90s-generation. It seemed to be very fun and unique to him. But as people’s attitude towards ‘non-mainstream’ culture went more negative every day, he felt terrible. Those serious negative evaluations did lower his self-esteem. In the same time, the fact that he was fascinated by ‘non-mainstream’ culture was told to other schoolmates by one of his roommates. According to Deng Li, that was the time when he firstly treated himself as a ‘non-mainstream’ person. For the more he denied, the more people treated him as a ‘non-mainstream’. Finally, he even...
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