Tattooing has persisted across time and space, often developing across ancient civilizations, even before cross-cultural contact. With the current oldest verified tattoos on the mummified body of Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old Tyrolean Iceman, up to current-day tattooing, a variety of uses and meanings have been ascribed to the practice. A majority of anthropological research has been dedicated towards indigenous tattooing traditions, external perceptions of marked individuals, and tattooing's deviant associations. Only a marginal amount of work has been geared towards the internal perceptions and cultural structuring of tattoos within modern societies, especially in the West. Frequently, a ‘tattoo community' is assumed in both daily conversation and academic publications. Yet surprisingly, the small amount of research that sets out to test for the possibility of a unique community structured around tattoos cannot come to an agreement on what the current social configuration surrounding Western tattooing is. This thesis sets out to investigate if there is such a community, or if such a group fits a different social figuration instead. Due to constraints brought on by COVID-19, it has been adapted to become an in-depth literature analysis with emic input from materials published from within the tattoo industry. This study also primarily focuses on North America, but does include international resources due to the high level of cross-cultural input historically and contemporarily. With a blending of insider and outsider resources, I intend to provide the most comprehensive compilation of possible social configurations theorized across disciplines, along with theorizing as best within my abilities the possible nature of a universal tattoo group in North America in my Honors Undergraduate Thesis.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Matejowsky, Ty


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences





Access Status

Open Access

Release Date