Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Mann, Susan

Second Advisor

Compton, D'Lane

Third Advisor

Jenkins, Pamela J.


This study explores the history of tattoos in the United States along with the role and significance of tattos today. The study's primary research question seeks to discover whether tattoos anchor an individual's personal narrative and help to solidify an individual's sense of self. The study considers both modernist and postmodernist concepts of identity, but ultimately supports a perspective which argues that identity is the result of an individual's ability to keep a consistent narrative going over time. This exploratory study uses a qualitatative approach to discern the meanings behind individuals' tattoos through their own words and conceptions. Eight individuals ranging in age, race and gender were interviewed in order to collect data for the study. The findings suggest that individuals frame the importance of their tattoos in a variety of ways from tattoos that commemorate aspects of one's past to tattoos that are highly symbolic of an individual's sense of self.


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