Expert Tattooing: The Development of a Profession in Canada, 1891-1986
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Expert Tattooing: The Development of a Profession in Canada, 1891-1986 examines professional tattooing in Canada from the late nineteenth century to the mid 1980s, a period that saw the practice’s emergence, expansion, and mainstreaming in the country. Using several cities and regions as case studies and employing a breadth of sources including archival material, oral histories, print media, and visual culture, I explore how tattooists navigated their profession’s complex occupational terrain. Tattooing—as a form of work, cultural practice, and social sphere—was much more pervasive and normalized than is often presumed. I provide a counterpoint to such misconceptions, which have marginalized those involved with tattooing, their contributions to the cities they lived and worked in, and the array of visual culture produced in the process. Using Ottawa as a loose geographic frame, I begin by developing my theoretical and methodological approach and examine the concept of “professional” as it relates to tattooing. I then assess how authorities across Canada used legal, moral, and health concerns to control tattooing while considering how tattooers worked within and against regulation. Next, I investigate tattooing in Toronto and beyond through the relationship between tattooists and print media, which I position as a medium that captured and distributed the profession’s oral discourse. The following case study examines tattooing in Vancouver and Victoria by analyzing the circulation of people, images, and knowledge, in, out, and around the two coastal cities. I then consider the relationship between tattooers and other cultural producers in Halifax by studying the visual culture produced as a result of their interaction. In my final substantive chapter, I interrogate connections between tattooing in Toronto and Japan through the work of fine artist Aba Bayefsky. Lastly, my epilogue considers the implications of this research through a tattoo artist named Nels Johnson who worked in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I argue that professional tattooing existed on a continuum of expertise, occupying the interstices between cultural production and work, on which practitioners developed methods to present themselves and their work as a legitimate, professional occupation.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/27452
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