Body Modification Research Paper

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Tuesday September 9th, 2008 @ 6:30 PM

Filed under: Culture

Since my first question got such a helpful response, I thought I’d use Ask BME one last time for help with something I’ve been struggling with.

I am a first year Bachelor of Arts (social sciences) student. I’ve done more essays than I care to count and gotten good marks. But this semester I have to do a research paper, which will be the first time I’ve attempted anything like it. Obviously it’s not going to require the depth that you’d expect in a final year research paper, but never the less, the standards are high.

I was thinking about doing my paper on body mods. (Well, I’ve already submitted that working thesis, so one way or the other my paper will have to be on body modification. It has to have a social scientific angle on it, which means I need to come up with a thesis statement and try to pair any claim I make up with an exsisting theory, or combination of theories.

Much of what was covered in the first paper I did was about social movements - large and small - and how people mobilised and organised themselves to take collective action. I think it would be great to look at the culture of body modification as a social movement. Perhaps on a smaller scale than say, civil rights, but a movement nonetheless.

If anyone knows of any theories already out there that I could potentially pair up with that idea, or any credible material available on it, then that would be a really helpful start. I mean it when I say *any* ideas too. Although plenty of opinion peices have been written on the subject, not much in the way of say, peer reviewed material is available and I was thinking maybe I just didn’t know where to look?

Thanks :)

Michelle (again heh)

I’m always glad to help out the students…

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8 Responses to “Body Modification Research Paper”

  1. Try going to your university library and asking the research or head librarian about anthropology, sociology or psychology journals. Ask If your university subscribes to EBSCO, or another electronic resource similar to EBSCO. If your university does, you should ask for assistance with it, as it allows you to search through multiple trade and technical journals, periodicals, etc… Hope this helps.

    TexaninIowa on September 9th, 2008 at 11:41 pm
  2. It does! Thank you :)

    Starlick on September 10th, 2008 at 1:49 am
  3. Michelle, you should post some contact info so people can get in touch with you.

    I take it you want to cover contemporary western body modification as opposed to other cultures. I just tried to have a look through EBSCO but it seems access is restricted to certain parts of my university. I can tell you at least that discussion of body modification in the medical and scientific journals is very limited - however there have been a handful of excellent pieces so the search is worth it.

    But ultimately you’ll have to rely on primary sources for your research (that’s a good thing!). Shawn has graciously offered his assistance, and he can probably single-handedly provide you with more guidance than you could hope for. At least one IAM member (that I know of) is also doing formal postgraduate research on the topic.

    As far as hypothesis is concerned, if you want to look at it from the perspective of a social movement, I wouldn’t look at it as an issue akin to civil rights, but draw something from the interesting history of body modification post WWII. The spread in popularity of body modification from “old guard” gay leather S&M bikers to the broader gay S&M community, to the gay community at large, to the punk subculture, to straight middle class white boys; and the concurrent transition of tattooing in particular from criminal and fetishistic groups to rebellious groups and ultimately the general population, are both excellent examples of society’s way of transitioning from condemning the behaviors of perceived deviants or the lower class, to gradual subcultural popularization, to an ultimate redefinition of social values and significant degrees of acceptance. Compare fashion, music, sex and porn, coarse language, etc etc.

    I’m sure once you explore the history a little more you’ll find a topic with ease. :) Best of luck.

    redeye on September 10th, 2008 at 2:04 am
  4. I’ve done papers on this subject before for my Psychology degree including my final year dissertation. My best advice would be that whatever you do stay as specific and focused as possible, in a previous sociology paper I conducted I focused on body mods in general and the material I covered was so vast that I only ever had enough room to make quite general statements with little interpretive analysis or introspection, I found that as soon as I narrowed my inclusion criteria things got A LOT easier!

    One thing I’ve always thought would make for a fascinating area of discussion would be an evaluation of the work of places like the Swastika Freakshop and the reclamation of the swastika in body mod culture as compared to other groups, perhaps religious or otherwise. If anyone knows of anything that’s been done let me know!

    Good luck!

    Absinthe on September 10th, 2008 at 6:40 am
  5. Wow, you guys are awesome. I was feeling rather low and wondering where I was going to go with this. It’s awesome that BME is so supportive of students. (I saw the scholarship they offer and couldn’t believe it!) As a community, investing in education is a smart move.

    Let me reply individually:


    You are absolutely right. My contact details are [email protected] and I can be found on . (Does this form allow html?)

    Yes, I definately want to focus on contemporary western culture in relation to body modification as opposed to other cultures. Western vs. other cultures are really two completely different ball games. I would like to eventually learn more about how body modification is done and used in other cultures, particularly where it relates to the origins of body mods, but that’s another subject for another day. Our library has a pretty excellent support service, so I will get in touch with them tomorrow and see what I have access to. I can’t believe it only dawned on me to do this after hearing your responses. It really should have been a logical first step.

    I am thrilled to learn we have postgrads doing research into body modification! I’d love to see what they are doing and talk with them. It’s very encouraging.

    My inexperience makes me using primary sources a scary prospect. I know it’s something I will have to learn to do effectively and so maybe now is the time to go for it. I’ve avoided it in essays out of fear of, I don’t know, sounding less credible. If that makes sense. But I know I need to overcome those nerves about it.

    Your ideas for a hypothesis includes so many things very relevant to the material we’ve studied this year. Social sciences is often concerned with the changes following post WW2. In fact, almost all of my essays have had to focus on that to varying degrees.

    And I think starting with getting to know more about the history of modification is excellent advice. I thought I already knew a lot, but as I gather information for this subject I am finding there is so much I had no clue about.

    You have once again been really helpful and I can’t thank you enough!


    My lecturer continually tells me that failing to develop a good working thesis statement will make this harder than it needs to be and that by narrowing my topic down to something more specific, things will automatically become clearer.

    You know I could have made this easier on myself by picking something that has already been thoroughly covered. But you know, I had always intended to take every chance to use my studies to work for our community and this seemed like just as good a place to start as any. The support is much appreciated.


    Starlick on September 10th, 2008 at 9:39 am
  6. Shawn is as diverse a primary source on this topic as you’ll find, click on his name for his info. I’ll send you the names of a few more people worth approaching through IAM.

    redeye on September 10th, 2008 at 8:11 pm
  7. I would highly recommend you focus on one aspect of body modification or your paper is going to turn into a book and then talk to your local artists as well as those online, since they have been following the movement, and make sure you learn the historical value of that type of mod. Good luck!!!

    Star on September 10th, 2008 at 10:13 pm
  8. Definitely keep the thesis direct and to the point, you have no idea how long it took me to get good at this, and how much easier it makes writing a paper.

    I don’t know if you are looking at any psychological aspects, but your college should have some sort of access to PSYCinfo..i would definitely surf around their for a bit, as there are tons of scholarly articles (peer-reviewed, if that is a requirement) there to use, depending on your angle of the paper.

    trailerparkjesus on September 17th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

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