Title page for ETD etd-01122009-115635

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Saccaggi, Caroline Francesca
Email carolsaccaggi@gmail.com
URN etd-01122009-115635
Document Title Imaging the body : a discourse analysis of the writings of people with tattoos
Degree Master of Arts
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Dr N Cassimjee Co-Supervisor
MS A Prinsloo Supervisor
  • social constructionism
  • body art
  • embodiment
  • Foucault
  • internet research
  • Parkerís twenty steps
  • Potter and Wetherell
  • body modification
  • tattoo
  • discourse analysis
Date 2008-09-05
Availability unrestricted

The increased popularity of tattooing in recent years serves as the backdrop for this research report. As tattooing has grown in popularity it has become increasingly mainstream and has been embraced by people from all walks of life. In particular, a large Internet archive of tattoos has emerged, that contains narratives by people with tattoos as well as numerous pictures of tattoos.

In this research report a discourse analysis was conducted on fifty-two of these Internet postings, in order to ascertain what discourse were in use in these postings. Thus, the discourse analysis looked at the ways in which having a tattoo/ being tattooed were constructed within these postings.

In order for the discourse analysis to be conducted, the research first embarked on an extensive review of literature, that looked at the academic readings of tattooing. It was found that these readings were varied, and that it was possible to read tattooing in many different ways. Both positive and negative readings of tattoos are highlighted within the literature review.

The theoretical backdrop of social constructionism informs the methodology section of the research, as it presents a detailed and contradictory discussion of the field of discourse analysis. Rather than unproblematically claiming to produce a discourse analysis, the research interrogated the term itself, highlighting the contradictions in the field before narrowing to the presentation of a pragmatic approach to discourse analysis that was used in this specific research report.

Following the debate in both the literature review and the methodology, three discourses were identified by the discourse analysis conducted. The first discourse relates to tattooing as being a definition or a redefinition of the self, a way to construct a new and complete identity. The second discourse refers to the process of getting a tattoo as providing access to a certain way of speaking that is only available to those who have tattoos. The third discourse identified looks at the construction of the tattoo artist as expert, and the role that the tattoo artist has as a gatekeeper to the discourses of tattooing.

©University of Pretoria 2008

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