Miranda Carlson-Strain Abstract

My proposed research will use participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and media analysis to gain understanding of the meanings and functions of tattoos among LGBTQ people in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). As NL is the most tattooed province in Canada (CBC News 2015) research here is compelling. I plan to collect narratives from tattooed LGBTQ people and tattoo artists, and gather perspectives on tattooing from non-tattooed LGBTQ people. Personal narratives are both developed from experience and give shape to experience (Ochs and Capps 1996, 21), and tattoo narratives in particular can be used to elucidate the meanings and functions of tattoos (DeMello 2000, 159). Gathering narratives will allow me to address the following research questions: What part, if any, do tattoos play in the lives of LGBTQ people and what do tattoos mean to them? Do tattoos figure in the coming out (and being out) experience? Are there subcultural tattoo styles or conventions among LGBTQ people? Are any of these locally-specific? Research on tattoos may reveal something about the wider question of what it means to be LGBTQ in St. John's. 'Identity' as conceptualized by Brubaker and Cooper (2000) will be especially relevant in this research: identity as categorization, self-understanding, and/or community. The queer anthropological approach to identity, as fluid and dynamic, will also be an important consideration. This research falls within the mandate of ISER by investigating the social and economic aspects of tattooing in the province of NL and understanding a still marginalized group here. St. John's has a thriving tattoo industry that is evidenced by the presence of many custom tattoo studios and the Annual St. John's Tattoo Convention that brings artists from all over the country. Not only is there an economic component to tattooing, but it is a culturally legitimate practice with artistic value. Researching tattooing in NL will add to an understanding of this social and economic practice. My research will explore the experiences of LGBTQ people in the city. I will partake in parts of the community to further understanding of tattooing among LGBTQ and the community more generally.