-Skin, Medium to express social identity-

Skin functions as a symbolic barrier separating the natural and the human (nature from humanity.) The interior of the body is natural and the exterior is subject to cultivation. For instance, the Kayapo which is an Amazon tribe, believe that cleaning the body means purifying it of natural elements. In addition, the hair which sprouts from the skin is also of symbolic importance: longer hair means they have more privileged. The hair inside of the body is natural but when it grows out of the body, this symbolizes the connection with the external society. Piercings, for example, the lip-plug signifies the differences between genders (only male gets their lips pierced.) Also the size of lip-plug indicates increasing authority or status. The fundamental opposition which structures the Kayapo society is articulated through practices which modify the tribe members’ skin.

This reading tells us that since it is visible to others, it is not just your body. It is a part of society. And each society has different standards with their own norm. This means a culture or individual can be analyzed by various yardsticks in each society. Now in the U.S, tattoo can be a creative way to express your individuality depends on the size or the type of it. However in Korea, most people have much more negative perspective towards having tattoo on the body than the people in the U.S. Having a tattoo has been a symbol of belonging to some criminal group for long time. It has given people bad aspects of having tattoo and still, the biased view strongly remained; the standard that each society can generate different perspectives towards same culture or appearance. May be I brought the topic too far but I also think this can be connected with the procedure how norm is created. If only one person in Kayapo tribe considered larger lip-plug seems to be powerful, it couldn’t be symbolical culture of Kayapo tribe. But because certain reason, most members of the tribe thought they need a tool to show each their own authority. During the process, skin became most important part to show status and etc like clothing is strongly considered in the Western culture: using skin as a medium to represent their social identity became a norm in Kayapo tribe.


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