Samoans have one of the oldest and most widely respected tattoo cultures in the world. The persistence of this tattoo culture may owe as much to Samoan cultural integrity as to the popularity of tattooing. The prestige of master tattooists is similar to that of Samoan chiefs, and the Samoan tatau tradition requires knowledge far beyond simply knowing how to tattoo. Traditional hand-tapped Samoan tattoos are also generally extensive, reportedly more painful than electric tattoos, and seem to exemplify the theory that such tattooing can function explicitly and implicitly as a signal of health and vigor or commitment to one's culture. For instance, my previous research has found that tattooing may prime the immune system for subsequent dermal stress. Nonetheless, to remain viable in a modern global context, traditional artists have had to modify their tools and teaching in several ways. These innovations may have further benefited Samoan tattooing culture but also affected the biological influences on health and immune response. Thus, in the current study I will investigate (1) the impacts of tattooing techniques and implements on immune response to dermal injury and (2) the roles of prestige and cultural transmission biases in the persistence of Pacific tattooing culture.
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Alabama, Tuscaloosa, U. of
Lynn, Dr. Christopher D., U. of Alabama, The Inking of Immunity, Prestige, and Cultural Transmission in the World of Pacific Tattooing