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04.12.08

The body is the medium

Posted in Piercing News at 8:48 am by admin

 The body is the medium

Nae Morris was 5 years old when she had her ears pierced.

Now 20, the University of Michigan student has 13 piercings, stretched earlobes with half-inch holes and several tattoos. She also has scars in the shape of flowers along the side of her torso that were created by having her skin cut with a scalpel, a process known as scarification.

Morris’ mother, she said, is the only member of her family who is speaking to her after her aunt found photographs of her on a body modification Web site six months ago. It has been an ongoing battle with her family over the past several years to explain why she chooses to modify her body in different ways.

“I’m trying to explain when is enough, when is it bodily harm, and what does it mean to me,” she said, sitting on a stool in the Lucky Monkey tattoo and piercing shop on South Ashley Street on the west side of downtown Ann Arbor. “Everything I have done has to mean enough to me to be worth it to stand up to my whole family. And I’m still going.

“It feels right. It feels like it belongs, every piece fits in. … I’m slowly getting happy.”

Body modification is done for many reasons, aesthetic, cultural, ritual and psychological. Intentional alterations to the body run the gamut from the more socially accepted ear piercing and plastic surgery to facial tattoos, implantation of jewelry under the skin, and the permanent modification of organs, such as tongue-splitting.

Modifying the body has been part of cultural rituals around the world for ages. Foot binding in China, lip stretching in Ethiopia, tattooing in Borneo, breast augmentation in the United States and female circumcision in Somalia are all forms of body modification.

Modifications available in the tattoo and piercing shops in and around Ann Arbor range from tattoos and ear piercing to implants under the skin, branding and stretching.

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