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.

Segregated Commercials

After watching numerous Miller lite “Man Up” commercials I realized that every commercial was made up of either entirely white characters (in most of the commercials) and then there were a few commercials that were exclusively made up of African American actors.

Do you think this is a legitimate portrayal of segregation within American society or is it an attempt to portray an idealized dominant ideology by the dominant class?

The ratio of White to Black dominated commercials is also interesting to look at. I could only find three all black Miller lite commercials while there seems to be well over ten white dominated commercials.

African American Dominated Commercials


Momma’s Boy



The Begining of the Globalization of Tattoos

The globalization of tattoos began in the 1700’s when the first explorers first saw Oceanic and Polynesian peoples cover in this painted designs.  Although theses ‘painted people’ were seen as primitive or barbaric many of the sailors that interacted with them began to have tattoos placed on their own bodies.  The distinct ways that these sailors adopted the practices they observed show the heterogeneous nature of the cross-cultural exchanges that were taking place.  For some of the travelers to the Pacific they engaged in the activity merely out of curiosity and they served as a permanent souvenir of their voyage as well as evidence of their encounter with people of the Pacific.  Many sailors also had their names or initials tattooed on their bodies rather then the style of the indigenous to serve as a form of dog tag.  This practice of putting personal references on one’s body had existed previously but became more popular with the use of tattoos.  Permanent markings of this sort soon became popular practice among seafarers.  Suggesting that early encounters with the people of the Pacific has had a lasting impact on Western maritime culture.  From there the practice slowly began to be mainstreamed.  Rock stars and movie stars began to get tattoos making them popular with people all over the globe, until they became quite common amongst populations in the United States and elsewhere.


Moonshining as a commodity

Discovery channel and Magilla Entertainment have created a new show that works around the law of moonshining. This show is called “Moonshiners,” it is set in Appalachia, and it is supposed to give the public a look at how the moonshining industry is still flourishing. The producers of this show have also produced “Jersey Shore,” “Jersey Couture,” “Bayou Billionaires,” and many other reality television shows about American families and lives. These shows have all come out within the last year and a half and they air on many different channels, appealing to a great number of people. I have inserted a clip that introduces the main characters of the show and gives a small glimpse at what the industry has become and how it is being portrayed.

Moonshiners promo

Brief history of the infamous moonshining

This multi-million dollar industry, we as Northerners don’t often hear about has been around since before the Civil War. It was started and has remained a necessity to survive economically and a means of fast cash. Immigrants from Western Europe and sometimes Africa started new traditions in the Appalachian Mountains, one major one being the distilling of whiskey. The main creators of whiskey were Scotch-Irish settlers. The settlers from these regions began farming separately in the mountains, but together began distilling whiskey and brandy with left over crops and fruits, like corn and apples (apples being one of the main ingredients in distilled brandy, and corn in whiskey). They perfected their techniques and distillers by learning from each other and working together.

The distribution and consumption of this alcohol quickly became engrained in the culture of the people living in the mountains, and also became a form of social bonding. The farmers who made and sold this whiskey were able to bond not only with the other farmers in Appalachia, but the people of the towns near them as well. Unlike, the sales of their crops, whiskey allowed them to make cash quickly and in quite large sums. The whiskey tax of 1791 only made this industry boom, being that the creation of the alcohol was done at home and off the books. In the years of 1861-1865 after the Civil War, the taxation became much more serious and led to the illegalization of “moonshine.” Despite the repercussions of making and distributing moonshine today, people are still doing it.

A brief history of yoga

Yoga is more than mastering postures and increasing your flexibility and strength. “The traditional purpose of Yoga, however, has always been to bring about a profound transformation in the person through the transcendence of the ego.”

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism the word yoga means “spiritual discipline”. People often associate yoga with the postures and stances that make up the physical activity of the exercise, but after closer inspection it becomes clear that there are many more aspects of yoga. It is an activity that has been practiced for thousands of years, and it is something that has evolved and changed overtime. Different factions of yoga have developed since its conception.

The exact history and origins of yoga is uncertain; however, there are pieces that have been connected and allow us to make some conclusions. It is known that yoga originated from the East. The earliest signs of yoga appear in ancient Shamanism. Evidence of yoga postures were found on artifacts that date back to 3000 B.C. Evidence of yoga is found in the oldest-existing text, Rig-Veda. Rig-Veda is a composition of hymns. Topics of the Rig-Veda include prayer, divine harmony, and greater being. “The primary goal of shamanism was to heal members of the community and act as religious mediators,” Yoga originally focused on applying and understanding the world. Its focus later changed to the self, self-enlightenment became the ultimate goal. It was not until the sixth century B.C. that the poses and meditation became a critical element. They were implemented by Buddhist teachings.

Modern Yoga differs greatly, the give basic principles of modern yoga that were created by Swami Sivananda include: proper relaxation, proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation.

I plan on further researching both modern and traditional, and into the modern day “yoga industry.”  One fact I did find is that mats were not even used in traditional yoga.  Now there is the “yoga pants” popular for women because they are comfortable, yet most of my friends that own these yoga pants do not even practice yoga.


After analyzing the commercials, I realized that the Miller lite “Man Up” commercials depended heavily on the use of surveillance in order to get their point across. It begins with the female bartender who affronts him for not caring about the taste of his beer and then for wearing or having some article that is considered feminine. The fact that the bartender is a female and is casting judgment on a man for being unmanly helps show that this manliness is something that is not just understood by macho men but also females, which makes it more socially acceptable to do.  Even the victims friends judge and heckle his friend for using the “feminine”  product. It seems fairly obvious that these commercials is intended to help promote and continue social hierarchy based on masculinity and heterosexuality while bashing homosexuality, metrosexuality and gender diversity in general.

I believe that the use of the female bartender is vital in attempting to preserve social hierarchies and would like feedback on what your thoughts are on her role within the commercials or if you notice any other uses of surveillance.

Man Up: Purse or Carryall?

Man Up: Skinny Jeans

Man Up: Skirt

Man Up: Lower Back Tattoo

Café Discussion Group

Scribe: Rob McCourt

In our group we discussed Spurr’s analysis of “the violence of the letter” which portrays one cultures ability to assert their dominance over another culture by analyzing and reclassifying another cultures habits and traditions.  We then discussed the connection between this and the Indigenous media article and how the Australian Aboriginals film industry is fighting to take control of how they are being filmed and represented by attempting to remove the influence of western film from their movies (like hiding the means of production from the audience). This would allow aboriginals to define theri own culture and values by making their own movies the way they want to make it.

There were also many struggles to find identity within the Arab Spring article, that dealt with trying to escape the influence of the dominant other. They attempt to create their own history and culture while outsiders like the U.S. are calling the conflict acts of terrorism. The need to shut out social media also plays a large role in their identity formation because it is not facebook posts or tweets that are going to actually change things. It is the ones who are actually physically involved that are making the changes.

We then discussed the idea of surveillance and the power that comes with the gaze and the connections it had with the aborigines filmmakers. They desired to control the gaze by moving away from western filming techniques and film the way they want to be depicted.

Lastly we thought it was fairly interesting how something like wearing a veil or Burka can impact the gaze/ surveillance. Most people view wearing these clothes to be a tradition that dis-empowers individuals by forcing them to cover their body, but it can also be seen as a point of empowerment by being masked and unknown due to the fact that others can not see you therefore they can not cast judgment. They are allowed the power of the gaze while remaining mysterious.

Introduction for Case Study Paper

Maybe it’s a Bad Fad:

Analyzing “Kony 2012” as a Cultural Text


Intro to Case Study Analysis


After receiving over one hundred million views on YouTube in the span of one month Invisible Children Inc.’s marketing efforts have undoubtedly made “Kony 2012” one of the most talked about topics of 2012 thus far. What is it about this production that has attracted so many people to it? The viral YouTube sensation “Kony 2012” has made media headlines around the world. The 29 minute piece about the Lords Resistance Army and more specifically, Joseph Kony, has brought about many questions regarding the producers and what the organization behind its production, “Kony 2012” is trying to accomplish. According to Invisible Children Inc., their mission is “to use film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war, and restore LRA-affected areas.” Their most recent melodrama has received numerous critiques, both negative and positive about their efforts of raising awareness and taking action in Central and Eastern Africa. Invisible Children Inc. has enabled and encouraged people to adopt this campaign as a part of their personal identity. This simplistic and thin documentary joins people from all over the world together by attacking the viewer’s emotions, creating an appeal to the viewer to immediately contribute to the organizations efforts of ridding Joseph Kony from the African continent.

Rhetorical modes of aestheticization and surveillance in this melodrama are used to create a pseudo understanding of what is occurring in Central and Eastern Africa. The campaign aestheticizes violence through the use of powerful music, social rhetoric, and by creating a focus on privileged youth who are from the west making a change for the social betterment of humankind through donating money and spreading awareness about Joseph Kony and the LRA. “Kony 2012” is attacking the viewer’s emotions, creating a distinct role for Generation Y to become more active, global citizens. Invisible Children Inc. unintentionally uses the rhetorical mode of surveillance to illustrate the global hierarchies in our “post-colonial” world. The video makes evident that there is a difference between people from the west and those individuals from “war torn Africa.” These rhetorical modes of aestheticization and surveillance have been taken from David Spurr’s, The Rhetoric of Empire. Spurr addresses the role of colonial discourse in the 21st century to create an understanding of how the meaning of a cultural text can be implicitly related to “colonizer” and “colonized” power structures. The aesthetics of “Kony 2012” have been enhanced by the middle-classes ability to observe situations from afar through technological innovations, etc… but at what cost? The campaign is playing on the emotions of pre-dominantly, uninformed, privileged people, making them supportive of a cause that they have never heard of. This has given Invisible Children Inc. the ability to create a ‘cultural text’ that plays with people’s emotions, and challenges the viewer’s identity and arguably their positionality. Spurr makes evident that every cultural text is symbolic of colonial discourse.


(more to come soon)

Masculinity Madness

For my case study I decide to analyze commercials created by two major companies, Miller and Dr. Pepper, and discuss how these commercials are influencing society in a negative manner; and  that causes a schism between males and females while enforcing gender differences by giving items a masculine or feminine quality.

Here are a few of the advertisements that I analyzed:

Dr. Pepper 10: It’s not for Women

Dr. Pepper part 2

Miller Lite: Man Up

It is obvious that these commercials seek to define what is masculine through the use of societal gender binary,and therefore at the same time defining what is feminine.

How much of  a role do you think these commercials play in reinforcing gender roles?

Do you notice any connections between these commercials (especially the Miller Lite commercial) and Spurr’s discussion on “Violence of the letter” and the power hierarchy of being able to define or re-categorize things.

What role does surveillance play in these commercials?

Lastly, I find a similar relationship between the Occident and the Orient, discussed by Said, and the relationship between males and females within the commercials, like defining ones own identity by defining what they are not or what “the other” is. I would appreciate any additional insight on your opinion on the dichotomy  of orientalism and sexism, or feedback on any other aspect that you feel may be of importance.

St. Lawrence University