This book would not be what it is, and indeed could not have been
written at all, without the personal involvement in tattooing I have
had since this project began in the late 1980s. As one who defines
myself as both insider and outsider to the tattoo community, it is
not an "objective" account of tattooing, and the impact of my own
life history on my work will be apparent to anyone who knows me.
For those who do not know me, I offer this account of my personal
history as a way of explaining to readers my own biases and perspec-
tives, and, perhaps, as a caution to other researchers who decide,
as I did, to study a subject that is close to home, as this approach is
not as easy as it may seem. But more importantly, I hope it sheds
light on the complex ways that life experience necessarily affects
the anthropological encounter-especially when that encounter is
with people very much like oneself.
I have been getting tattooed since 1987 and have defined myself
as a member of the tattoo community since 1988 when I began at-
tending tattoo conventions and reading tattoo magazines, as well
as collecting more extensive tattoos. When I began studying within
the community, I was a tattooed woman married to a brand-new
tattooist. During the first years of research, my husband Shannon
and I both struggled to find a way to "join" what is known as the
tattoo community, a process that was in many ways extremely alien-
ating and that also made me aware of the powerful borders both
within and around this community. As a tattooed person, I experi-
enced a community that was neither as friendly nor open as I had
imagined it to be. As an anthropologist, I realized that my experi-
Previous Page Next Page