Wrapping in Images: Tattooing in Polynesia

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Wrapping in Images is the first comparative analysis of tattooing in Polynesia in its original setting, based on a comprehensive survey of both written and visual documentary sources.

Drawing on modern social theory, psychoanalysis, and contemporary anthropology, Alfred Gell shows how tattooing formed part of a complex array of symbolic techniques for controlling sacredness and protecting the self. He uses this framework to examine the iconographic meaning of tattoo motifs, the rich corpus of mythology surrounding tattooing in some Polynesian societies, and the complex rituals associated with the tattoing operation. he also demonstrates how not all ancient Polynesian societies placed an equal emphasis on tattooing, or exploited the basic metaphors in the same way. Gell's wide-ranging, comparative political analysis shows consistent correlations between forms of political structure and different tattooing institutions, offering a new perspective on Polynesian comparative sociology.

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Oxford University Press
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