Friday, May 18, 2007

Reading the Body

This is from a post on an interesting new blog, Genderquake on tattoos and body writing:

One thing that fascinates me about these images is their insistence on corporeal legibility: the body can easily be read by casual observers. Tattoos aren't the only forms of inscription that lead to this legibility: when I was pregnant. I felt like my body was suddenly the subject of discourse, and that strangers could easily "read" my body to learn that I would soon be a mother.
The public availability of both pregnancy and tattoos as topics for conversation certainly resonates for me. My partner gets attention now from strangers about her ink in ways very similar to the stray comments that had been made about her pregnancies. Both sorts of conversations seem to encourage an immediate intimacy which is very striking, and both tend to be about a recognition of a kinship (I have one of those too...).


  1. As a way of introduction to a question in an above post, I am curious how other people read my immediatly legible tattoo, which you cna find here, in the closiong notes to a my spring lecture series:

    The tattoo is exposed at 1:40-50 or so. In the end, I chickened out on sending a link over the class listserve as I feared the c students would feel antagonized, and simply trust that curious students will find it someday.


  2. Dude! That is an awesome video! I think you should send the link to your students. In fact, if you don't mind, I would like to embed the video in a future post here to share with the masses (or at least with the dozen or so of the masses that visit here regularly).

    "Cheese is Good" is a very intriguing tattoo. I like it. Is it related to your film studies interests? I think sharing it on video is a nice touch. Stripping down live in class creates a very different sort of performance.

    Plus, I loved your Minutemen cover. Was Jackass one of the films you showed in class?

  3. In the past I think that stripping down live was a disruption of the class, a coliision style cut that I enjoyed and found useful but one which the students found troubling or disruptive.

    Since the class is fundamentally about making the cuts in film visible, I can support the deployment of the tattoo, but at the cost of animosity from some of my students who could never be convinced that the abstract critical aims of the class were distinct from my assessments of within the university's discourse.

    Anyhow, we didn't look at Jackass (well, we did watch Land Without Bread, which is kind of a 1930s spanish version); the video is a parody of the rambling dis/associations that the students found disturbing.

    The tat itself, though: I was trying to shoot for something that was quite legible, easy to read, but so ambivialent it would be impossible to understand. When my partner was preganant, most people didn't take that preganancy with the same set of significations she took from the changes in her body. Is this common? I couldn't tell from your post how to take the intimacies of strangers, based on the commonality of physical markings.


  4. I think it's safe to say that my partner reacts more positively to attention from strangers over her ink than she did to attention over her pregnancies. It has been a few years now, but I do have a vivid memory of her slapping the hand of my dissertation advisor when he touched her pregnant belly... That particular intimacy was not one she was very happy about.