In the Flesh: Body Piercing as a Form of Commodity-Based Identity
Amelia Guimarin

Mentor: Dr. Teresa P. R. Caldeira

Commodity-based identity is an important part of today's consumer culture society. People use commodities to create identities for themselves. Some may view this reliance upon commodities as limiting the power of the individual. However, this study focuses on body piercing practices to argue that individuals exercise choice and authority as they utilize commodities and their symbolism to create their own identity. In the community of college-age individuals, body piercing has emerged as an important commodity used to express identity and individuality. In this study, the practice of body piercing in the college-age community is analyzed in relation to traditional rites of passage with which it shares undeniable similarities. When children become distanced from their parents, as in the case of 'going away to college,' they enter a new stage in life. They may, then, undergo a crisis of identity when the structure by which they based their identity, the family unit, is replaced by a community of peers. This project draws upon existing theoretical analysis and first-hand ethnographic research to argue that body piercing is both a form of commodity-based identity and a way to reconcile a crisis of identity by undergoing a rite of passage.

(Slides - PowerPoint Format, 15.4M)
(Slides - PDF Format, 16.7M)

2005 UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium, May 14th 2005