Surveillance and tattoos

Surveillance has also played a role in tattoo culture throughout history.  This rhetorical mode can be seen in early Polynesian society.  The tattoos represented an individual’s bloodline as well as social status.  The more tattoos an individual had the higher up in the hierarchy they were.  Whoever had the most tattoos had the most prestige and all that one had to do to know this was simply glance at the skin.  By simply looking at a person tattoos they were put into their place in the social hierarchy.  This idea of surveillance continues into modern times.  An example of this would be gang tattoos.  These forms of tattoos serve to associate gang member with the group and may be used to invoke fear.  If someone has a gang symbol of their skin, people won’t want to mess with them and will steer clear of them, which gives gang members some power.

Tattoos, however, can also be seen as a narrative.  They are often a record book or a canvas for the individual. Every tattoo they have may relate to some aspect of their lives or they might signify a relationship.  Like friendship tattoos, individuals in this instance are memorializing a relationship on their bodies the same way someone might with a camera.




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