Mutilating the Body: Identity in Blood and Ink

Kim Hewitt

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From the Publisher

This scholarly discussion places acts of body mutilation within a conceptual framework that explores their similarities and dissimilarities, but ultimately interprets them as acts that ask to be witnessed. The author explores self-mutilation through history and across cultural divisions, finding these acts “positive expressions of social custom, individualism and resourcefulness… symptomatic of crises of identity, religious faith, or modern social structures.” In modern contexts, such ancient rituals continue to function as “an avenue of symbolic death and rebirth.”

In her analysis of the origins and motivations of body modification, Hewitt draws upon psychological, medical, and cultural theories on self-inflicted pain-tattooing and scarification as well as fasting, bulimia, and some performance art. She finds such acts of self-mutilation in present-day America may “express a change in how society perceives marginalization.” Humanity has, says Hewitt, “a universal urge to alter consciousness through body manipulation, this urge also [indicating] an individual and cultural moment of transition through crisis and passage into maturity.”

This work thus encompasses an aspect of the juncture of the personal and the political that is implied in “popular culture.”

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About the Author

Kim Hewitt is a writer who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in American Civilization at the University of Texas at Austin. Her interests include the history and influence of eastern philosophies in the United States, utopian communities, spirituality, and altered consciousness.

Mutilating the Body: Identity in Blood and Ink


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