Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Since its commercialization and rise to popularity in mainstream culture, tattooing has increasingly become a profession that effectively blends medical regulation and artistic expertise. Although a non-traditional profession sociologically, tattooing is in the process of an occupational shift, moving from the realm of deviant, working-class art to a commercialized industry of consumers' artistic identity expression. While in the process of this shift, tattooing currently borders several social worlds, each of which are vying for control over its practice. Specifically, the social worlds of art, medicine, and legislation are currently colliding in the struggle to define and control of the practice of tattooing. This ethnography focuses on the recent professional changes in tattooing, utilizing the local and daily processes of a tattoo shop in the Chicago metropolitan area. The concentration of this ethnographic report will demonstrate the ways in which tattoo artists negotiate their artistic identity and expertise with customers' bodies, state health regulation, and increasing commercial competition. It will become clear that the findings of this research have implications for the sociology of professions, organization-based conceptualizations of art worlds, the gendered nature of artistic expertise and bodywork, as well as for the ways in which public health policy is created and enacted.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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