Engaging ideas, transforming minds
Engaging ideas, transforming minds

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The Tattoo Project
Canadian Scholars’ Press
222 pages
6.75 x 9.75 inches
January 2017
Print ISBN: 9781551309453


Unique in scope and content, this methods-based text draws on the process of creating a digital archive of commemorative tattoos to examine the production and mobilization of knowledge across communities, disciplines, and space. Deborah Davidson’s multidisciplinary collection addresses the cultural history of tattooing and the social meanings and implications of commemorative tattoos—tattoos that hold significant value for their bearer.

A practical resource for those undertaking archival research or collecting and sharing information across disciplines, this text acts as a template for building connections between academic and non-academic communities. Bridging the gap between theory and practice, The Tattoo Project offers critical insights and tools for courses focused on research methodologies and digital humanities, and provides innovative content for those studying the body, visual culture, and commemoration.


  • highlights several case studies and personal narratives to contextualize theoretical and methodological approaches
  • includes photographs of archival participants
  • features accompanying poetry by award-winning poet Priscila Uppal
  • The Tattoo Project digital archive provides additional supplementary materials including photos, videos, and narratives

Related Titles

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Introducing The Tattoo Project
Deborah Davidson


Chapter Two: Memories on the Skin: A Brief Cultural History of Tattooing
Margo DeMello

Chapter Three: Commemorative Tattoos as Visual-Material Media
Sara Martel

Chapter Four: Between the Inside and the Outside: Commemorative Tattoos and the Externalization of Loss or Trauma
Andreas Kitzmann

Chapter Five: Creative Methodologies
Gayle Letherby and Deborah Davidson

Chapter Six: Tattooing as Auto/Biographical Method and Practice
Gayle Letherby and Deborah Davidson

Chapter Seven: Visual Research Methods: Memorial Tattoos as Memory-Realization
Deborah Davidson and Angelina Duhig

Chapter Eight: Inscribing Memory as a Social Process: The Tattoo Artist–Client Relationship
Arthur McLuhan, with Wayne Galbraith


Poem. Not a Cliché, by Priscila Uppal


Two Memories, by Mary Khan


Chapter Nine: “Physical Words”: Scars, Tattoos, and Embodied Mourning
Kay Inckle

Chapter Ten: Enshrined in Flesh: Tattoos and Contemporary Women’s Spirituality
Gina Snooks

Chapter Eleven: Memorial Tattoos as Connection
Andrea Warnick and Lysa Toye

Chapter Twelve: “Ingulule Ayidli Ngamabala”: A Reflection on the Spotted Soloist
Siphiwe Ignatius Dube

Chapter Thirteen: I Am
Stephanie Pangowish

Chapter Fourteen: Tattoo Memoir
Dave Mazierski

Chapter Fifteen: Why I Get Tattoos: A Personal Perspective on Tattoos and Commemoration
Craig Roxborough


Chapter Sixteen: What Is an Archive? Creators, Functions, and Value in Archival Practice
Lisa Darms

Chapter Seventeen: Public Sociology and Digital Culture
Ariane Hanemaayer and Christopher J. Schneider

Chapter Eighteen: Technology Design to Support Commemorative Tattoo Practice
Melanie Baljko

Chapter Nineteen: The Coming Together of a Community of Practice: Commemorative Tattoos as Visual Culture for Community Engagement and Identity Formation
Anabel Quan-Haase

Chapter Twenty: Knowledge Mobilization: Engaging Beyond the Academy Walls
Krista Jensen

Deborah Davidson

Author Biographies



The Tattoo Project imaginatively blurs the lines between academic research and embodied narratives, scholarly knowledge and lived experiences. Methodologically ambitious, The Tattoo Project shows the multi-layered meanings behind commemorative tattoos, giving voice and space to the people who embody them. It also challenges us to re-think collaboration and community through the creation of an open digital archive that extends into the public sphere, and how the tattooed body is an inimitable archive in and of itself.”
—  Mary Kosut, School of Natural and Social Sciences, Purchase College, SUNY

“As a unique form of human expression, tattooing transmits a vast body of information about who we are, where we come from, our desires and fears, and who we aspire to be. It offers one of the most powerful biographical, artistic, and intellectual statements on cultural diversity, visual communication, and commemorative agency. The authors of The Tattoo Project bring these profound perceptions to life, generating a timely interdisciplinary study that provides critical new understandings of body-marking and its role in self-making.”
—  Lars Krutak, Tattoo Anthropologist, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

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