Becoming a Heavily Tattooed Young Body: From a Bodily Experience to a Body Project

Why some young people start to tattoo their bodies? And why some of them keep going on with this practice, until having all body tattooed? What doing so means to them? These are some of the questions that underlie a qualitative research project carried out in Portugal on heavily tattooed young people. In this article, the author discusses their embodied trajectory from the first experiences to their involvement in a body project, and explains the meanings involved in this extreme corporeality. The analysis takes into consideration the structural dynamics that define how young people live their transitions and their identity construction nowadays to contextualize what appears as individual experiences and projects without reifying the individual as a privileged site of knowledge. Based on in-depth comprehensive interviews, the author demonstrates that the engagement of young people in this permanent body modification project represents an embodied struggle for the maintenance of a desired subjectivity. In an increasingly liquid and uncertain society, some young people ink larges extensions of their bodies searching for social recognition as different, authentic, and autonomous individuals and trying to maintain their core identity during transitional turning points.

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