Roux, D. and Belk, R. (2018) ‘The Body as (Another) Place: Producing Embodied Heterotopias through Tattooing’ Journal of Consumer Research– accepted manuscript 19 December 2018
While previous research has mobilized sociological and psychological readings of the body, this study considers it ontologically as the ultimate place we must live in, with no escape possible. A phenomenological framework and a four-year, multimethod, qualitative study of tattoo recipients and tattooists substantiates the conceptualization of the body as a threefold articulation: an inescapable place (topia); the source of utopias arising from fleeting trajectories between here and elsewhere; and the “embodied heterotopia” that it becomes when people rework their bodies as a better place to inhabit. We show how tattooed bodies are spatially conceived as a topia through their topographies, territories, landscapes and limits. We then highlight how this creates a dynamic interplay between past, present and future, resulting in utopian dreams of beautification, escape, conjuration and immutability. Finally, we show how tattooees produce embodied heterotopias, namely other places that both mirror and compensate for their ontological entrapment. In considering the body as a place, our framework enriches phenomenological and existential approaches to self-transformation in contemporary consumption.