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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Bodies, Art and Exchange in the Pacific and the West

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Bodies, Art and Exchange in the Pacific and the West

Whether fully adorning a biker’s arms or nestled cutely, and discretely, above one’s ankle, tattoos are a commonplace part of modern fashion and expression. But as modern as this permanent accessory can seem, the tattoo, in fact, has ancient and distant roots in Oceana, where it had been practiced for centuries before being taught to Western seafarers. This collection offers both a fascinating look at the early exchanges between European and Pacific cultures surrounding the tattoo and the tattoo’s rising popularity in the West up to the modern day. It is also the first book to thoroughly document the history of tattoos in Oceana itself.
The essays here first document the complex cultural interactions between Oceana and Europe that had sailors, whalers, and explorers bringing tattoos home from their voyages. They then move on to issues surrounding encounter, representation, and exchange, exploring the ways missionaries and the colonial state influenced local tattoo practices, and the ways tattoo culture has since developed, both in the West and the Pacific. Stunningly illustrated, this unique and fascinating history will appeal to anyone interested in the history of tattoos, the culture of Oceania, or native arts. 

256 pages | 40 color plates, 87 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2005

Art: Art--General Studies

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“A definitive history about Pacific tattooing and its influence around the tattoo world. Meticulously researched and beautifully presented, the book is highly recommended.”

Total Tattoo Magazine

“This historically rigorous and theoretically nuanced collection of essays [is] indispensable to students of world systems of art and culture.”

Ruth Phillips, Carleton University

Table of Contents

Nicholas Thomas
Part One: Histories and Encounters
1. ‘Cureous Figures’: European Voyagers and Tatau/Tattoo in Polynesia, 1595-1800
Bronwen Douglas
2. ‘Speckled Bodies’: Russian Voyagers and Nuku Hivans, 1804
Elena Govor
3. Marks of Transgression: The Tattooing of Europeans in the Pacific Islands
Joanna White
4. Christian Skins: Tatau and the Evangelization of the Society Islands and Samoa
Anne D’Alleva
5. Governing Tattoo: Reflections on a Colonial Trial
Anna Cole
Part Two: Contemporary Exchanges
6. The Temptation of Brother Anthony: Decolonization and the Tattooing of Tony Fomison
Peter Brunt
7. Samoan Tatau as Global Practice
Sean Mallon
8. Multiple Skins: Space, Time and Tattooing in Tahiti
Makiko Kuwahara
9. Wearing Moko: Maori Facial Marking in Today’s World
Linda Waimarie Nikora, Mohi Rua and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku
10. Beyond Modern Primitivism
Cyril Siorat
Epilogue: Embodied Exchanges and their Limits
Nicholas Thomas
Select Bibliography
Notes on the Editors and Contributors
Photographic Acknowledgements

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