Animal-Themed Tattoo Narratives: Insights into Ontological Perspectives
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By examining the narratives associated with animal-themed tattoos, this study explores the various ways in which humans relate to other animals. Participants used animal-likenesses to think about themselves, others, and the world around them. By embodying positive attributes of a species that they loved and admired, the tattoos enabled participants to construct meaning and identities based on shared human–animal traits. A thematic discourse analysis of the tattoo narratives grouped them as (1) shared experiences with another species, (2) life experiences and semiotic production of meaning, (3) animal traits embedded in the process of identity formation, (4) animals representing a connection with other humans, or (5) experiences of and/or ideas about animals that represent a profound or transcendent experience. The tattoo narratives were examined in the context of theoretical frameworks associated with “symbolic interactionism” and “interspecies intersubjectivities” to understand how animals were perceived and engaged with. In contrast to how nonhuman animals are often used as objects of ridicule, or representations of inferiority and uncouthness in various discourses and mediums, the animal subjects of the tattoos discussed here are positively portrayed and incorporated into the bearers’ own identity. Participants merged ideas about humanity and animality in a manner not representative of a naturalistic ontology, but rather a form of anthropomorphism that is dichotomous with naturalism.
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