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Title: From rock stars to soccer moms : emergence, growth, continuity and change in the body modification field
Author: Petten, Irene
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 0608
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis is an exploration of a particular cultural preference, "body modification" (i.e. the 'atypical' practices of tattoo, piercing, scarification, suspension and related practices), in the United Kingdom and United States. In the short span of about thirty years these practices have crept from the margins toward the mainstream and have lost a degree of their deviant status in the process. In spite of the geographic differences between body modifiers, meanings and motivations are remarkably similar across a number of themes. Yet the root of these similarities and growth in practice stems mainly from the actions of body modifiers themselves rather than swooping external, global market forces that would appropriate body modifiers' culture. Using Bourdieu's concept of the "field" as an orienting tool to explore culture, this thesis draws upon life history interviews with people who conduct body modifications, historical record, law and legal debates, questionnaire data, an abbreviated ethnography and letters between founding members of the field. It looks at how body modification emerges, grows, and maintains continuity of cultural content and changes through interactions between internal and external institutions, producers and consumers. The intertwined processes of legitimation, identification and professionalization play a crucial role in structurating the field to allow for growth and popularity. As a set of cultural practices that emerged from the margins of cultural preferences, the body modification field was shaped and continues to be shaped by the hostile environment from which it emerged, even though public reception to body modification is no longer quite as antagonistic as it once was. Emerging at a time when body modification was truly deviant from the norm, early body modifiers created strong frameworks of meaning and underlying values that were aimed at normalizing practices to a wider public, being inclusive to gain members and also embraced a wide variety of body modification practices. When the field began to grow and some body modifiers had formally organized, elite members forcefully attempted to draw practice away from the more 'extreme' end of body modification. This resulted in opposing efforts to reassert core field values, but as the numbers of both consumers and producers continued to grow the field was riddled with competition and boundary struggles. Gaining a modicum of legitimacy within the wider scope of cultural preferences and gaining new members caused tension over status hierarchies and the growth of more 'extreme' practices.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available