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Clarendon Press
28 March 1996
Body art & tattooing; Anthropology
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.
By:   Alfred Gell (late Reader in Anthropology late Reader in Anthropology London School of Economics and Political Science)
Imprint:   Clarendon Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   New edition
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 21mm
Weight:   548g
ISBN:   9780198280903
ISBN 10:   0198280904
Series:   Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology - Cultural Forms
Pages:   358
Publication Date:   28 March 1996
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for Wrapping in Images: Tattooing in Polynesia

Wrapping in Images: Tattooing in Polynesia promised to be that long-awaited treatise which would address and analyse the complexities of tattoo in Polynesia ... Gell's approach to this topic combines current psychoanalytical and deconstruction theories ... Wrapping in Images adds to the dialogue concerning Polynesian tattoo. As a resource it does offer new insights and theories about the relationship of tattoo and status. Museum Anthropology A significant contribution to Pacific history and the anthropology of Polynesia. Choice Depth and scope and a degree of audacity that take it far beyond the purely academic problem ... it proves to be particularly pertinent for analyzing Polynesian thought. Pacific Arts Wrapping in Images ... is in the best tradition of British social anthropology: clever and crisp, filled with structural and symbolic insights and organization by means of controlled comparisons ... it succeeds admirably, elucidating structures of tattooing in the inscription of Pacific bodies ... an ambitious book which displays remarkable scholarship and erudition. American Anthropologist well-written volume ... Wrapping in Images is an impressive scholarly achievement which will interest both those new to Polynesia and specialists in the field. For the novice, this book provides a useful introduction to the region and its scholarship ... Gell presents provocative ideas about both Polynesian cultures and the nature of tattooing which will undoubtedly stimulate further discussion ... More specifically, this work presents a detailed test case which has the potential to shape ongoing debates about the relationships between Polynesian cultures. Anne D'Alleva, Journal of the Anthropomancal Society of Oxford, 26/2 (1995) This impressive study takes a comprehensive view of the practice of tattooing in Polynesia ... The scope of Gell's investigation is impressive, and it's interpretation ultimately convincing. Ruth Barnes, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol.60 no.1 1997


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