A scholarly appraisal of tattooing that mixes dry sociological data with captivating firsthand accounts of what it's like to give or receive a tattoo. Sanders (Sociology/U. of Conn.) sports several tattoos himself, giving him "a major source of insight into the perspective of committed members of the tattoo subculture." And a thriving subculture it is: according to Sanders, this "mode of symbolic communication" is "the most ancient and widely employed form of permanent body alteration," as old as the late Stone Age. After presenting a dry theoretical framework and a brief history describing the ups and downs of the art—it's enjoyed a renaissance in the US since the late 1960's—Sanders plunges into a lively look at the people who frequent tattoo parlors. Predictably, most customers are male, and most males get their first tattoo on the ann (women favor more intimate locations). While 35% come to regret their decision, a solid majority bear with pride their rabbits, dragons, crosses, flaming eyes, hearts, teardrops, and other elaborate formations. As for tattooists, most stumble into their profession, keep mum about their techniques, wear surgical gloves in this age of' AIDS, and despise drunken first-timers. In other words, there's little here to surprise, but much to delight, the devoted student of fringe social practices. Despite some academic material that contributes little, this is the most intelligent book available to date on the modern aspects of an increasingly popular form of body decoration.
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