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The Other End of the Needle demonstrates that tattooing is more complex than simply the tattoos that people wear. Using qualitative data and an accessible writing style, sociologist Dave Lane explains the complexity of tattoo work as a type of social activity. His central argument is that tattooing is a social world, where people must be socialized, manage a system of stratification, create spaces conducive for labor, develop sets of beliefs and values, struggle to retain control over their tools, and contend with changes that in turn affect their labor. Earlier research has examined tattoos and their meanings.
Yet, Lane notes, prior research has focused almost exclusively on the tattoos—the outcome of an intricate social process—and have ignored the significance of tattoo workers themselves. "Tattooists," as Lane dubs them, make decisions, but they work within a social world that constrains and shapes the outcome of their labor—the tattoo. The goal of this book is to help readers understand the world of tattoo work as an intricate and nuanced form of work. Lane ultimately asks new questions about the social processes occurring prior to the tattoo’s existence.
About the Author
DAVID C. LANE is an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences at Illinois State University in Normal.
"A compelling, in-depth look at tattoo artists and their social world as they pursue fulfilling, enchanting work in the midst of a dehumanizing capitalist system. Lane provokes fascinating questions about how artists organize spaces, navigate laws, and construct authenticity as tattoos become increasingly popular. Reading made me want to get more tattoos – and ask my artist all sorts of questions!"
— Ross Haenfler
"It takes two to tattoo–someone being tattooed and the tattooist. Their encounter has to be face-to-face, and this fact shapes how tattooists work, regardless of whether they approach their work as a craft or as high art. In this fascinating book, David Lane takes us into the many corners of the tattooists’ world, revealing how the occupation retains its traditions in the face of dramatic changes." — Joel Best
"Looking at the nature, habits, and cultural codes of professional tattooing, Lane reveals the complexity of tattooing as an art form, work world, and social process. The tattooists appear as resilient agents who resist capitalist alienation, unionization, and state-level regulations. We also see the artists as gatekeepers who maintain the class, race, and gender order of professional tattooing. A truly interesting read." — Katherine Irwin
"In The Other Side of the Needle, David C. Lane provides an absorbing and accessibly written view of the tattoo world from the perspective of tattoo workers. Drawing on an art-world perspective and packed with insights from tattooists, the book explores the working lives of tattooists. It provides a much-needed and thorough treatment of this understudied area and will be of interest to scholars in the production of culture as well as to anyone interested in tattoos and tattooing. — Victoria D. Alexander