Hi guys,
I am a third year Anthropology student at the university of Southampton, UK, and I am currently conducting research for my dissertation which is on the subject of body modification. More specifically it is on the motivational, ideological, social and cultural aspects of body mod. Furthermore I am contemplating and analysing why certain types of body modification, such as tattoos, are seen as socially deviant and against norms, whilst others, such as cosmetic/plastic surgery, are seen as socially sanctioned.

So I was wondering if anybody would be willing to help me in conducting my primary research for this. Basically I am trying to create a virtual focus group on here, I will start of by posting my first question to generate answers, I would then like people to respond not only to my questions but to other members responses, creating a discussion rather than a typical questionnaire survey format.

I am coming from a neutral background, and the questions will be unbiased, allowing you to freely express your thought. I will then periodically introduce new questions for though and discussion as it progresses. There is no pressure to complete this, you can post only once and not again, however it would obviously be more beneficial to my research if you were to keep track of the thread and respond accordingly.
If you are interested in helping out just post a reply letting me know, also if anyone has any questions about how I will be using the information supplied or the study itself feel free to ask.

Thank you for your time, and I really hope you can help :).


We are having an influx of people asking the same questions and giving relatively the same back story. I wonder why this is such a popular dissertation subject.


There already exists anthropological studies on this EXACT topic. (I’m an anthropology student myself)
Look it up. You can also check out the movie Modify, which.. Well, answers all your questions.
I’m more concerned with weater your approach will be approved by your university… I’m seeing some ethical problems here. Is this something you’re actually gonna use, or is it just preparation?
Why aren’t you doing proper fieldwork instead? If you’re actually serious, you need to get in touch with real people, in the real world. You’re not too far from London, go to Camden. Go to the tattoo studios, the freak shows, those guys. That’s where you’ll get something to work with. But honestly? It’s been done before. Several times. There really isn’t anything new to find just yet.

.. And I think it’s popular just because todays students are too lazy to go out into the Amazons and live with a tribe for six months. They’d rather do all the hardwork from their own couch.


cosmetic surgery is deceptive and part of commerce
calcifies status quo

body modification is Art

ergo Politics

hence controversy



The basis is very simple humans like to recognise similarity in one another and we use the way people look to reaffirm this feeling of belonging (and hunt for potential mates and enemeies etc).

Plastic/Cosmetic surgery in the mainstream is used to alter the orig appearance of the person but in the person’s mind make it better eg smaller nose, tighter buttocks etc etc.

If you did not know the person or were not an expert you would not notice any significant difference as they have the same physiology as yourself ie no extra eyes or noses and so on.

Tattoos make a person stand out as they have made a permanent choice that can be visible to others.

Then take into account many people fear pain – think the bearer is ‘sick’ or ‘wrong’ to go through with a visually painful procedure.

Many associate the ink as a warning and that the person is dangerous (similar reaction to snake markings).

Some simply do not like the art style or choice of tattoo.

Some disagree with both sets of procedures cosmetic surgery and tattooing as based on cultural or religious beliefs about altering the human form.

The list goes on but essentially a lot of people are simply prejudiced against what is different – it depends on their upbringing that influences this but also need to gauge other factors such as prejudices on colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc

Each of these feeds into the cultural norms of what is ‘acceptable’.

Whilst all knowledge is good for this you need to do what I did and actually physically interview various sample groups.

Forums are good for one sample but you need to get out there and do the interviews with artists, tattooees, ppl who have cosmetic surgery, surgeons, religious groups or community leaders.

A few calls and you will find actually a lot of ppl are willing to help as long as you treat their opinions fairly.

Take care

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