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Title: Autobodyographies : an ethnographic exploration of the entanglements between bodies, time, and (im)mortality within a consumer culture
Author: Steadman, Chloe
ISNI:       0000 0004 7965 2510
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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Throughout this thesis, I explore the entanglements between bodies, time, (im)mortality, and consumption activities within the primary context of tattoo consumption. Three key research questions are addressed: First how might bodily modifications relate in contrasting ways to cultural notions of time and lived temporality? Second, how and why might persons negotiate multiple marks of time through and upon their bodies via consumption activities? Third, why might the consumption of temporal permanence still be sought in an accelerating cultural context? And how and why might people endeavour to attain a sense of temporal permanence for themselves and/or others through modifying the impermanent body? To answer these questions, an iterative ethnographic research design was employed. This comprised participant observation at three tattoo studios, two tattoo conventions, and three art/museum exhibitions (Body Worlds, Amsterdam; death: the human experience, Bristol; and Time: Tattoo Art Today, London); multiple biographical and elicitation style interviews with 18 tattoo consumers; and photography. An iterative hermeneutic style of analysis was adopted, including both thematic and narrative approaches, to analyse and interpret the data attained. The findings revolve around the temporality of bodily modifications, with a particular focus on the temporality of tattoo consumption. Namely, how this form of consumption relates to cultural notions of time and lived temporality. Three key temporal themes are identified in the data. In the first theme- Autobodyographies: Inscribing, revising, and hiding temporality- the concept of autobodyographies being introduced in this thesis is unpacked. Here, I explore participants' ongoing processes of inscribing, revising, and hiding multiple marks of time, including tattoos, through and upon their bodies. The second theme- Broken beings: Repairing temporal ruptures- explores how time has frequently become foregrounded within participants' lives following biographical disruption, and tattoos have helped them to construct a sense of temporal order out of this temporal disorientation. The final theme- Inking immortality: Transcending temporal boundaries- discusses how participants typically hold a finite conception of time and regularly fear death. It revolves around participants' construction of symbolic legacies for deceased loved ones through inscribing memorial tattoos into their skin, and three overlapping functions of memorial tattoos identified in the data are discussed. This thesis contributes to extant consumer research concerning bodies and/or time in three key ways. First, by introducing and unpacking the account of autobodyographies, it brings literature regarding bodies and time into more direct conversation. I offer more nuanced understandings of body-time entanglements by considering people's (re)negotiations of multiple temporal inscriptions, including tattoos, through and upon their bodies. By exploring how both intentional and unintentional temporal inscriptions intermingle on the body's surface in narrating temporalised identities, I also bring greater attention to pre-reflective consumption behaviours and retrospective meaning-making. Moreover, I enrich my insights in light of cultural notions and experiences of time and bodies, alongside the Western history of tattooing. More culturally-informed understandings of body-time relations are thereby also provided. Second, my findings build upon, and contrast with, the concept of liquid consumption. I indicate how, in the backdrop of a seemingly accelerating and transient consumer culture, people might be actively seeking a sense of stability, continuity, and durability in practices of (re)solidification such as tattoo consumption. I also demonstrate how, on a broader existential level, persons have never turned their back on the pursuit of immortality for themselves and others, and hence the ultimate form of solidity. Third, I contribute to the slowly growing literature surrounding death and consumption by providing insights into why the body might sometimes paradoxically be considered as a secure site on which to build a sense of immortality. Finally, this thesis is a tale of vulnerability, and I suggest how and why marketers could help persons to venerate their vulnerability, rather than profiting from its vilification.
Supervisor: Banister, Emma Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: consumer culture ; tattooing ; vulnerability ; time ; the body ; death