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Analysis Paper 1 - Cultural Perspectives on the Body...

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Cultural Perspectives on the Body Daniel Weitzer Analysis Paper October 5, 2008 Individuals gain substantial amounts of identity through the body. This is evidently demonstrated through one’s physical appearance. By recognition of ubiquitous markings, people allocate certain values through color and occupation. In addition, personhood plays a major role in identity as it assigns and gives membership to society. Identity is portrayed with recognition of personhood by establishing status in society through bodily appearances including representations of tattooing, branding, scarring, physical objects, obesity and “perfection.” The identification of an individual commences with the physical appearance. Through outwardly expression, such as tattoos, one can inevitably form an opinion of an individual. In Reading the Bodies of Early American Seafarers , “Tattoos marked the men who made a career out of the sea” (Newman 61). Therefore by acquisition of a tattoo, it implied that the individual served as a sailor. These individuals were regarded as possessing the lowest paid jobs and accordingly were inhabitants of a lower class. Furthermore, most sailors were not literate and lacked proper penmanship. The entirety of this information was conveyed to the public through tattoos, but more of their identities were revealed through specific symbols that signified an explicit connotation. These symbols consisted of names, initials, dates, seafaring descriptions and religious images. Each of these components that symbolize tattoos frames an individual’s identity. The appearance of a tattoo therefore contributes to the identification of a person by proposing their profession. Through, Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Anitiquity , individuals received an identity involving punishment or status symbolizing the mark on their skin. Stigma usually implied a negative connotation through tattoos by means of castigation. In Graeco-Roman culture, “stigmas” on the right wrist of an individual with two barbarian letters were recognized as runaway slaves. In addition,
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penal tattooing normally identified delinquent slaves, criminals and prisoners of war as they were the only ones to receive this act of punishment. In opposition to tattoos, branding demonstrated a penalty through a scar formed by a hot iron. Branding also declared rank as, “Kings deck themselves with emblems such as crowns and scepters in order to declare their status” (Jones 151). Accordingly, many individuals can be
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