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Festival of Ideas to host academic event on tattooing

Posted on 6 June 2023

The Festival of Ideas will host an academic event on the practice and cultural context of tattooing.

Tattooing has had a long association with seamen and criminals, but now 35% of British citizens aged 30-39 have tattoos somewhere on their bodies. (Image courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich)

The event follows on from the University of York’s first academic conference at the Royal Maritime Museum in London, last month, which brought together academic researchers and other individuals passionate about tattoos, tattooing practice, tattooed communities, and the intersection of tattoos and well-being.

Topics ranged from the historical tattoo scholarship, the relationship between tattooing and motherhood, the cultural significance of tattoos in communities spanning Egypt, India, and Nigeria, the link between AI and tattoos and what it means to be tattooed. 

Tattoo insights

The follow-up event will be part of the York Festival of Ideas on 12 June and will feature a public talk titled 'Tattoo: The Body as Archive', incorporating discussions on new research regarding naval tattoos, fan tattoos, and insights that tattoos can reveal.

Tattooing has had a long and abiding association with seamen and criminals, but times are changing. With tattooing now become mainstream, with 35% of British citizens aged 30-39 sporting them somewhere on their bodies.

Throughout history

The panel of experts will delve into a range of topics, including the world of complex and unexpected imagery that people throughout history have used to inscribe their identities on their bodies. 

The event will also explore the idea of the body as an archive, learn about the social networks and ideas of the self that tattooing can express, and find out how we can go about recovering the insights that it can reveal.

Interdisciplinary research

Co-organiser, Dr Nina Willment, Research Associate in the School of Arts and Creative Technologies at the University of York, said: “It is such an interesting, vibrant, and interdisciplinary research area, and we can’t wait to bring together tattoo artists, practitioners, academics and people with an interest in tattoos together for what we hope will be a wonderful event for Festival visitors.”

The event is free to attend but tickets need to be booked in advance.

Further information:

York Festival of Ideas

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