In the first NRG talk for this academic year, Hywel Dix, Senior Lecturer in English and Communication, will present a paper on “Marking and Re-marking: Tracing the Tattoo in Crime and Detective Narratives”. The abstract for Hywel’s paper follows. All are welcome to come along to the talk on Wednesday 30 October at 2p.m in TAG01.
Implicit in its straddling of two different sets of social relationship, one bourgeois and the other at least potentially subversive, the portrayal of the tattoo in recent fiction points to a radical instability in the perceived status of tattooing as social practice, and implies a contemporary shift in the status of that practice in society. Drawing on Howard Becker’s classic sociological analysis of different art worlds, this paper will analyse the portrayal of tattooing as cultural practice in Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michelangelo and Alan Kent’s Voodoo Pilchard. It will explore how much the social practice of tattooing was a subversive one in the early twentieth century; and to what extent that practice has recently become incorporated into the mainstream of fashion and consumer society. It will ask to what extent tattoos could be considered legitimate serious art in the early twentieth century and today; and to what extent the recognition of tattooing as legitimate art comes at the cost of compromising the politically transgressive potential of the practice.