Eagleton tackles tattoos

A Reading Note

It is, to be sure, no crime to tattoo your biceps.…But there can be more and less creditable reasons [for doing so]. The creditable reason is that it is fun; the discreditable reason is that it may involve the belief that your body, like your bank account, is yours to do what you want with.

Eagleton, After Theory, page 165

And, later:

“Personalizing” the body may be a way of denying its essential impersonality. Its impersonality lies in the fact that it belongs to the species before it belongs to me; and there are some aspects of the species body—death, vulnerability, sickness and the like—that we may well prefer to thrust into oblivion.

Eagleton, After Theory, page 166

I’m not so sure about this latter point. Haven’t tattoos historically been a way of identifying the body as part of a particular species body (read: tribe)? In that sense, tattoos are about demonstrating how you are alike, not how you are different. Claims of youthful rebellion aside, I don’t think much has changed in this respect.

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