Body Modification at TMSE by LaBethany Bradford

So this week at TMSE we learned about body modification! I was really excited to teach this class given that a lot of people think body modification is weird. But, it isn’t! I had to remind the students throughout the presentation that we also do body modification on a regular basis and that it is normal. To begin, I went over CLAP one last time, which stands for the four subfields of anthropology: cultural, linguistic, archaeology and physical. I then reminded them about our lesson on archaeology from last week and how it is the study of past people by examining things they left behind. To start off with body modification, I asked them what they thought it was and they gave me great answers! I was very pleased that they said it is when you change your body or get a tattoo. I then further explained to them that body modification can also be things like getting a piercing, tattoo or implants.

Some students wanted facial hair..
…while others wanted flowers







I then moved on to specific examples, starting with the oldest known tattoo, which was found on Otzi the Iceman. He has tattoos that date back to 3300 b.c.! I then gave examples of typical American body modification such as braces and tattoos and asked them if they knew anyone that had body modification. I then showed them other examples of body modification such as that of the Apatani women, the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia and finally that of the Kayan people. I had to explain that even though they may think it is weird, this is normal for their culture. I then moved on to showing them body modification seen in Indonesia, our topic region this semester, specifically tattoo tapping and teeth sharpening. Tattoo tapping is where they take two sticks, one which has a needle attached and is dipped in ink, that they tap together against the skin to create these beautiful tattoos about nature. I explained that tooth sharpening is done because the teeth were thought to represent anger, jealousy and other similarly negative emotions so they file them down. They were really intrigued by this.

Proudly showing off their body modifications! AND showing off an Anthro Day shirt!

After we wrapped up the presentation we moved on to our activity of giving them tattoos…. well not real ones. We used tattoo markers and temporary tattoos and gave the students whatever tattoos they wanted. Some of the tattoos the guys chose to get were bands across their foreheads, shields with their initials on them, and of course superhero characters. The girls got gold hearts, gold stars, and frozen tattoos even though they all agreed they really didn’t like frozen. They didn’t really have a preference of what they did not want – I think they honestly just enjoyed getting drawn on. They seriously enjoyed the activity and even gave me a tattoo. One of my students, sticking with the nature theme of the Indonesian tattoos, gave me a tattoo with my initial in the middle and then branched out vines and flowers onto my hand. I absolutely love teaching them and it seems as if they enjoy being taught by us. 

Bodies: Modified.


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