Posts Tagged ‘scarification’

Scarification, the process of creating raised designs on the body by cutting, branding, burning, or freezing the skin, is a body modification practice widely unheard of (compared to the more popular practices such as piercing and tattooing) in the Western world. Its practice in the U.S., originally adopted by the gay and lesbian subcultures of mid-1980s San Francisco, was revived by the neotribal movement of the early 1990s in an attempt to create a more “authentic” aesthetic while also romanticizing exoticism.

TW: blood, mildly graphic description of scarification process


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ImageWarning: this post does contain mention of self-injury.

I recently came across this article on scarification. Scarification is a process that involves using a scalpel to carve patterns into flesh. This may seem gruesome to some, but some who are attracted to it are looking for a way to disguise old wounds. One person who had scarification had been a youth who had engaged in self-injury and said that scarification was a form of reclamation.

What is the purpose of disguising scars with more scars? The idea of putting more scars on top of preexisting scars being reclamation is baffling to me. I can’t help but think that scarification may make self-injury worse, or, at least, make people believe that placing scars on their body is a healthy coping mechanism.

What if someone got a tattoo to cover their scars, though?

ImageWhile scarification carries stigma, the cultural status of tattooing has evolved from an anti-social activity to a fashion statement. Tattooing involves placing needles into the body instead of scalpels. Since both processes involve piercing the body, one may wonder which one is worse – or if they are both processes that are equal in magnitude (i.e. in terms of harmlessness, morals, destructiveness of the body, etc.). To me, tattooing is better than scarification, as in my view, no matter the method, producing a scar as opposed to producing an image that does not resemble a scar (given that one is not attempting to tattoo what looks like a scar onto the body) encourages self-harm. However, I am aware that I can’t speak for everyone.

ImageOn a different note, while thinking about the process of scarification, I wondered about the body as a  work of art, or at least a canvas upon which practices such as scarification, which is done in the name of art may be carried out. Another practice is tattoo art, and one may be able to perceive plastic surgery as a procedure that makes the body a work of art or creates art upon it as it sculpts parts of the body. However, more subtle forms of art/processes that make the body art can be simply applying makeup or combing one’s hair. These processes, although they may be viewed as mundane parts of daily life, all involve “fixing” or “adjusting” the body to create a certain visual image for the viewer (whether that viewer may be oneself looking in the mirror or others). That, to me, is art.

I remain on the fence about scarification. However, I believe the practice can bring about some interesting discourse on what makes a body practice acceptable or not, and on the body as art/a canvas for art.

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