(Th)ink Culture: Motivation and Meaning Making in Modern Tattoos
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Tattoo culture and the community it has created have undergone a renaissance since the 1980s. Persons with tattoos now account for an estimated 34% of the North American population between the ages of 18-30. Despite this relatively recent surge towards acceptance of tattoos in the current social context, much of the academic literature and media portrayals of tattoos characterize social deviancy among tattoo enthusiasts. Tattoo enthusiasts are pushed to the periphery of society and marginalized as bikers, criminals, and people with psychological problems. The purpose of this study is to describe and understand tattoo culture in a way that is accessible to non-members of that culture, particularly teachers and parents. The primary research questions proposed by this study include what motivates people to become tattooed, what motivates members of the tattooed community to stay minimally involved in the culture or to increase their involvement, and how members of the community perceive their tattoos within the current social context. To answer these questions, this study focuses on the lived experiences of six tattoo enthusiasts from one small community. Through the study of these shared experiences, this study questions the nature of tattoos in this small community and whether these acts can be considered deviant or culturally normative.