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Vol. 10 No. 3: September issue

Thinking the Self through Hooks, Needles, and Scalpels: Body Suspensions, Tattoos, and other Body Modifications

November 15, 2021


Body modifications such as tattoo, scarification and body suspension represent not only aesthetic interventions, they can also be social practices with which to challenge and transcend the body’s limits, operating on the perception of wellbeing and moulding specific forms of self. In this Research Article, based on research on body suspension in Europe, I aim to analyse body modifications as a means to voluntarily intervene in human perceptive abilities, shaping individual lives through unconventional sensory experiences. In these practices, pain is signified as a threshold for sensory turmoil, capable of shaping the protagonists into a ‘sensory poiesis’. Through such sensory experiences the individual embarks on a process of ‘self-design’ to achieve a better state of being, combining suspensions with other body modification techniques. Suspension practitioners act on the flesh and skin with hooks, scalpel, and ink in order to process events, to trigger new versions of the self, and to enhance how they feel. In doing so, they produce unique and original ‘projects of humanity’, that is, new forms of humanity created by the individuals themselves.