Rice University Department of Religion

Underneath the Surface: African American Religion and Tattoo Culture, April 25, 2017, 11:00 AM - 1:30 PM

Thesis Defense

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Jason Jeffries
Doctoral Candidate

Humanities Building

This dissertation is an exploration of the relationship between religion and tattooing, a form of body modification, within for the African American community. I argue that tattooing should be included as source material for the study of black religion, because it is an embodied, cultural product that often captures black experience, black cultural memory, black ethics, black history, black social analysis and identity. That is, through the reading of tattoos and understanding tattoo narratives, we may better understand a person’s morals, ethics, and values. We also can better understand how they utilize their tattoos to express what is meaningful in their lives. Through ethnographic research and the understanding of religion as the quest for complex subjectivity, we see that through tattooing, people are looking to express their the internal urges that are important to them in terms of expressing life meaning.