Vaas

College course on history of tattooing

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Has anyone ever heard of something like this? I know there are some books out there. This is what I spend spring break thinking about, apparently...

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University and colleges have art, sociology, history courses on subculture, pop art, etc. So not really surprised to hear this although an academic course on tattooing seems off the mark.

The best way to learn about tattooing (whether you are a tattooer, collector or whatever) is to GET tattooed, not a semester listening to lectures and writing a paper at the end of the term.

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Why's it a terrible idea?

Fundamentally, I believe that learning about tattoos and tattooing is something that should primarily be done through the experience of getting tattooed, hanging out in tattoo shops, talking with tattooers and tattooed people. I think there's something really important--maybe even integral--about the way that knowledge and history in tattooing is primarily transmitted orally, that things are passed on person to person and that everybody is going to have his or her own idiosyncratic views of tattooing rooted in his or her own direct experience. I loathe the idea that this wonderful, messy thing called tattoo could be broken down into a curriculum with learning outcomes or whatever bullshit that university administrators want out of courses these days so that undergraduates could take it for three easy credits. I am skeptical that tattooing has anything to gain from it being offered as a course to college or university or art students; it seems like it has far more to lose than it can possibly gain.

I'm not saying that academics can't contribute anything to tattoos (I think most of them do a pretty poor job, but my objections aren't just that we need somebody to do it better), but it's something that should mostly stay in the shop and with the people who actually have something invested in tattoos.

That's my opinion, anyway, and opinions are like assholes.

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Hmm. What I meant was literally the origin of tattooing. Before you could walk into a shop and get something done by a guy with a tattoo machine. I doubt he'd be able to tell me about Maori rituals and show me what they looked like, and I won't take his word for gospel even if he did. I don't see why learning about history from a university is a bad idea, since I'll never be able to visit all those places to ask people there how it all went down.

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I think I remember @El Dolmago discussing how she snuck some tattoo history into one of her lectures? Tattooed people giving a little bit of history in context is kinda cool IMHO!

Margot Mifflin, who wrote "Bodies of Subversion" and "The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman" is an academic who has written some interesting and informed material about tattoo and the history of tattoo, and I believe she travels around giving lectures about tattoo history.

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@Vaas there's an antique bookstore near me that has some older books on Maori tattooing and the like - I don't know where you live, but try a library and check out 'tattoo' in the anthropology sections, you might have some luck!

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Sorry, can't seem to stop with this.

I've enjoyed many posts from this site: http://tattoohistorian.com/

I agree with @Graeme and @bongsau that fundamentally the best way to learn about tattoos is to get tattooed and talk with tattooed people - and that it's important that that is how the history/culture etc is passed on, but I also think there are a number of things academics can contribute to the history of tattoo! Learning, researching, compiling, educating.

We have some tattooed academics here on the board who are ensconced in the culture, and who have learned it (are still and always learning) the "right" way - I would love to take classes from them, if they were to offer some sort of tattoo curriculum.

But "tattoo 101" or other pop/made for the masses courses - yeah, that kinda sours my stomach. The source DOES matter.

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Relevant to the discussion! Read the commentary!

TED-Ed Does Tattoo History…Sigh | tattoohistorian.com

As an academic, professional, and historian, she's stoked that it's not as bad as most tattoo histories - gangs, criminals and the like - but points out a number of glaring errors and her commentary is on the nose regarding things like this becoming primary sources for teachers, news reporters etc.

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http://tattoohistorian.com/2014/04/21/the-melodramatic-nostalgia-of-tattoo-reporting/#more-285

last link post and i'm gonna get back to doing things pertaining to real life now. But so good, so relevant, I am in love with this woman.

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Hmm. What I meant was literally the origin of tattooing. Before you could walk into a shop and get something done by a guy with a tattoo machine. I doubt he'd be able to tell me about Maori rituals and show me what they looked like, and I won't take his word for gospel even if he did. I don't see why learning about history from a university is a bad idea, since I'll never be able to visit all those places to ask people there how it all went down.

Get tattooed, talk to tattooers, talk to tattoo collectors, and you might be surprised at what people know. For example, I know this local tattooer named Simon because I used to live behind the shop he works at and I'd stop and talk with him and the other people at the shop when I was walking my dog and they were taking smoke breaks outside. I've since been tattooed at the shop and sometimes I'll have a beer with him at the bar next to the shop when he's done for the day. He's a good tattooer, but he's a real street shop tattooer who doesn't have a preferred style but will do whatever comes in through the door and will do a good job of it. He has no internet presence, I'm not even sure he has a cell phone. Anyway, I was talking with him once, and he mentioned, just in passing, about when he lived and tattooed in the Marquesas. So here's this guy working in a really low-key street shop, mostly tattooing names and bird silhouettes and stuff found on pinterest and what not, and he has this pretty deep first-hand knowledge of Polynesian tattooing because he actually lived and tattooed there.

I don't mention this because I think it's anything particularly special, though I think it is a kind of neat story, but rather because the more I get tattooed, the more time I spend in shops and with tattooed people, artists or otherwise, the more I understand and appreciate the immense amount of knowledge and understanding that there is in your average tattoo shop. Tattooers, at least the good ones--and it isn't worth getting tattooed by the ones who aren't good--love tattooing, they love the history and the stories and the lore of tattooing, and they collect this stuff just as much as they collect tattoos. They know far more about tattoos and tattooing than any academic ever will.

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Get tattooed, talk to tattooers, talk to tattoo collectors, and you might be surprised at what people know. For example, I know this local tattooer named Simon because I used to live behind the shop he works at and I'd stop and talk with him and the other people at the shop when I was walking my dog and they were taking smoke breaks outside. I've since been tattooed at the shop and sometimes I'll have a beer with him at the bar next to the shop when he's done for the day. He's a good tattooer, but he's a real street shop tattooer who doesn't have a preferred style but will do whatever comes in through the door and will do a good job of it. He has no internet presence, I'm not even sure he has a cell phone. Anyway, I was talking with him once, and he mentioned, just in passing, about when he lived and tattooed in the Marquesas. So here's this guy working in a really low-key street shop, mostly tattooing names and bird silhouettes and stuff found on pinterest and what not, and he has this pretty deep first-hand knowledge of Polynesian tattooing because he actually lived and tattooed there.

I don't mention this because I think it's anything particularly special, though I think it is a kind of neat story, but rather because the more I get tattooed, the more time I spend in shops and with tattooed people, artists or otherwise, the more I understand and appreciate the immense amount of knowledge and understanding that there is in your average tattoo shop. Tattooers, at least the good ones--and it isn't worth getting tattooed by the ones who aren't good--love tattooing, they love the history and the stories and the lore of tattooing, and they collect this stuff just as much as they collect tattoos. They know far more about tattoos and tattooing than any academic ever will.

I completely understand this perspective, but at the same time I have to disagree. While tattooers might have lots of experience and knowledge, they still aren't properly trained to do the type of research that academics do. Academics go through years of methodological training (via coursework as well as personal research experience) in order to be able to accurately analyze whatever subject they are studying. These forms of analysis can obviously vary from highly advanced statistics to more qualitative cultural analyses, but the point remains, it takes a lot of training to be able to do this stuff correctly. Sure, if you're just looking for basic history encyclopedia kinda stuff then that's one thing, but much further than that tattooers probably won't be of much use. That's like saying studies of the workplace are useless because you could just go talk to a worker. Workers (doesn't matter the profession) might have a pretty good understanding of the workplace, but that doesn't mean they can produce adequate research on that workplace. As someone who is working towards their PhD, I'm probably pretty biased though.

As far as a college course goes, that's another story, college courses and academic research are two very different beasts and those who have argued that a lot of it would be dulled down rubbish are probably right. Basically, reading the academic research on tattooing is probably a lot more valuable than taking a college course on tattooing.

As a sociologist I sometimes get the urge to study different facets of tattooing, but I think it's probably best to keep these worlds separate. But I'm pretty big on compartmentalization and keeping different parts of my life separate.

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Wouldn't Ed Hardy be a prime example of a Tattooer with an Academic background in Art?

Does he have an advanced degree? I don't think he completed his MFA at Yale and as far as I know never went back. But still, he would be in the extreme minority. Sure, a tattooer with a PhD would be perfectly qualified to conduct research, but there aren't really any active tattooers that I know of who have this qualification. I'm sure there are some, but probably not many.

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I would totally take a course on tattooing (as long as the person teaching it had a great interest in tattooing.) I took a sociology class that talked a little but about ancient tattoos. BUT just because I'd take it doesn't mean I'd want other people to take it. It sounds strange, but I enjoy the fact that I know more about tattoos than most people. If everyone knew about it then it wouldn't be so sacred.

Tattooing is my church, and I don't want to go to church with yuppies.

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Oh my.

There are classes on the history of rock and roll, country and bluegrass.

The history of religion, be it Christian, Wiccan, Islamic or other.

The history of psycho killers, psycho lovers and psychoanalysis.

In short, if a thing exists, a school will be more than happy to take your money and teach you about it's history.

I fail to see the difference.

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I just wrote and essay about tattooing ("Turning point of tattoo art in the 1970's". Direct translation from finnish) for my art history studies in University. It is a topic that has been gaining "popularity" in recent years, so I think this type of thing (lectures etc) will be happening more and more in the future.

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