Aside from my interest in disability studies, I have done research about body art and modification. The two fields have many connections: for instance, people with disabilites and those who have chosen to modify their body in a non-traditional way can encounter stigma and animosity. People who have chosen to modify their bodies intrigue me--what is it that drove them to get a tattoo, a piercing, or non traditional body modification? Just as there is a wide range of disabilities, there is an equally diverse population interested in body modification.
The link between these two seemingly disparate groups was blurred when I read about a student, Klara Jirkova, at the University of Arts, Berlin, who came up with the idea of Braille Tattoos. Jirkova noted that the purpose of body art was not only to decorate but was meant to be read or interpreted by society. In an attempt to empower blind people to have meaningful body alteration Jorkova created Braille Tattoos. Not really a tattoo but a subdermal implant, this could be placed anywhere on the body. For example, a subdermal implant could be placed between the thumb and index finger that would be felt when two people shook hands. This could be read by a blind person.
Subdermal implants are not new but the term Braille Tattoo is certainly unique. I am not quite sure what to make of this. The idea is creative--a spin on existing and well established body art. I do not like the term Braille Tattoo--perhaps this is a matter of translation from German to English that has resulted in an odd phrasing. However, my dislike for the phrase is over ridden by a new use for an existing form of body modication.
Paralyzed since I was 18 years old, I have spent much of the last 30 years thinking about the reasons why the social life of crippled people is so different from those who ambulate on two feet. After reading about the so called Ashley Treatment I decided it was time to write a book about my life as a crippled man. My book, Bad Cripple: A Protest from an Invisible Man, will be published by Counter Punch. I hope my book will completed soon.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Body Art: Braille Tattoo
Posted by william Peace at 6:37 AM
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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tattoos all over his face and neck and hands (the parts of his body I could see) as well as some kind of implant that totally "altered" his face. I must admit I was quite stunned by his appearance and couldn't help but wonder "why"...
BTW: We were practically neighbors once. I spent years working at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Hts.
Good luck with the book! It's good you're blogging now. It will help to promote it.
Oh my gosh - The first half of my comment didn't make it! Sorry...
I was saying that I found your blog via Greg's Disability Blog Carnival and that your post reminded me of a young man I saw at our local airport (Columbus, OH)
(con't. in first comment)!
One can be taken aback when meeting a person that has tattoos on their neck and face. These sort of tattoos often dramatically set a person apart. Based on my experience in the tattoo community the people with these sort of tattoos have excellent and compelling reasons for their body modifications. I just wish the people without tattoos would be more open minded and tolerant to their presence.
I couldn't agree with you more. I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression. I believe one can be open minded, very tolerant, and still be curious and perhaps even a little "stunned" initially.
Like any other form of art, one doesn't have to really care for it in order to appreciate it. And while I didn't particularly care for this young man's "artwork", I do admire his strong sense of individuality and I told my daughter so at the time. She too sports a tattoo. It's a perfectly lovely tattoo, but she knows I don't particularly care for it. She respects that just as she knows I respect her right to have one!
P.S. I realize my "blogger profile" runs into a dead end. Allow me to introduce myself here: http://www.kuusisto.typepad.com/twoferone/
You did not give the wrong impression--I was simply building on your comments. Tattoos have fascinated me in part because of the reaction they generate. I see the stigma associated with some tattoos similar to the stigma associated with disability. I wrote an article about this a few years ago in Disability Studies Quarterly. I am delighted you are accepting of your daughter's tattoo. Too many parents needlessly harrass their kids because they are tattooed. In fact when I taught a class entitle Body Art and Modification at SUNY Purchase one of the main reasons students told me they took the class was so they could refute their parents negative view of tattooing and untraditional body modification.
i HAVE to find a picture of this...
The photos/link can be found at needled.com blog
Needled is a great body art wensite. There is a frequent blog reporting on body art in the news.
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