‘War Ink’: sense-making and curating war through military tattoos

Dyvik, Synne L and Welland, Julia (2018) ‘War Ink’: sense-making and curating war through military tattoos. International Political Sociology, 12 (4). pp. 346-361. ISSN 1749-5679

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Veterans have long sought to make sense of and capture their wartime experiences through a variety of aesthetic means such as novels, memoirs, films, poetry and art. Increasingly, scholars of IR are turning to these sources as a means to study war experience. In this article we analyze one such sense-making practice that has, despite its long association with war, largely gone unnoticed: military tattoos. We argue that military tattoos and the experiences they capture can offer a novel entry point into understanding how wars are made sense of and captured on the body.

Focusing on a web archive – ‘War Ink’ – curated and collected for and by US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, we analyze how tattoos perform an important ‘sense-making’ function for participating veterans. We focus on three recurring themes – loss and grief, guilt and anger, and transformation and hope – demonstrating how military tattoos offer important insights into how military and wartime experience is traced and narrated on and through the body. The web archive, however, not only enables a space for veterans to make sense of their war experience through their tattoos, the archive also does important political work in curating the broader meaning of war to the wider public.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 14 May 2018 15:09
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2020 01:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/75749

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