This thesis is an exploration of the tattoo subculture in America. The research focuses in on several interests: the reasons people choose to get tattoos and the meaning behind them, the sense of community felt my members of the tattoo culture, the location of tattoo culture between mainstream and deviant culture, and the differences between American tattoo culture in a rural vs. urban setting. The exploration of these research interests was done through two methods of data collection: open-ended surveying of 27 people with tattoos and interviewing with two tattoo artists. Drawing upon three different theoretical frameworks I provide an in-depth discussion my findings. The results showed that people get tattoos for many reasons, but a common theme is that tattooing is a form of self-expression and it is this view that is part of the reason the association of tattooing with deviance has decreased. I found that the meaning behind tattoos tends to reflect cultural values. The significant differences found in a rural vs. urban setting of American tattoo culture deal with how tattoo artists view themselves and how setting can limit the type of work they do. Future research is suggested, as this subculture is continually changing.


Matsuzawa, Setsuko


Sociology and Anthropology


Anthropology | Graphic Communications


tattoo, subculture

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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