Our new paper mentioned in the previous post is out, Open Access, in the Nature subsidiary journal Humanities & Social Science Communications. We're pretty stoked to have open access in a Nature journal. Is that big time? It is in my head!
Furthermore, I'm really proud of the students in my lab who stuck in there for Zoom meetings over the course of a year as we figured out how to do a scoping review, write it up, and get it published.
Here is the DOI for the paper, where everyone can read it: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-023-01511-6
New Tattoo Paper Accepted
My friend Becci Owens, Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Sunderland specializing in evolutionary psychology, had started working on a scoping review of psychological studies of body modification a few years ago but was stalled. I volunteered my lab to help her finish it. It took us about a year to discover that a "scoping review" is a real thing and not another word for a systematic review. After developing a coding system for the corpus of articles Becci had gathered, I googled scoping reviews and found the articles by Nunn like this one that describe scoping reviews in detail and realized that I'd led us all astray for a year. When we refocused on what a scoping review actually is, it became apparent that we simply needed to describe the basic patterns of how psychology studies of tattooing have been conducted.
When we started, we noticed that so many of the studies looked for correlations between tattooing and negative personality traits and risk behaviors, despite the fact that most of the same articles and other contemporary sources note that no correlations between tattooing and negative personality traits how been found and that the primary correlations are with openness to experience and youth. So, our secondary objective was to try to understand why so many studies reify tattoo stigma by studying it as though it were a negative behavior and trying to understand causes of such poor behavior. In examining the group of studies that included tattooing as a "stigma" variable in this way (the largest category by far), it became clear that there was a temporal factor. Early studies were looking at penal and mental health populations, seeing lots of tattoos among patients relative to the general population, and trying to determine if marking the self is some aberration of fragile identities. Later studies seemed to indicate that tattooing itself is not a negative behavior but let's just throw it in anyway because we wonder if it might be a useful way to identify people at risk for mental fragility in the general population. But, though I paraphrase, what the hell is that anyway?
I have long argued that such studies should just use the Big 5 Personality Inventories because what they're interested in is not risk-taking behavior so much as openness to experience. It appears that by the 2000s, scholars such as Viren Swami had laid to rest with explicit studies saying that all tattooed and non-tattooed people are the same, but even then his titles were ambiguous, leading people to potentially think there are differences if they don't read further (which, shocker, many people don't).
Anyway, it became apparent that studies shifted from the above to social psychology studies that look at tattooing in much more interesting ways, such as how tattooing can have different meanings or impacts depending on the type of job you have or how tattooing may intersect with multiple marginalities to influence how people are treated in healthcare settings. These more granular studies are much more interesting.
When we looked at the history of the discipline of psychology, the studies we note start after the first renaissance, which was much more recent than generally assumed--tattoos were only out of fashion for about 15-20 years. The pattern of psychology studies also follow the general patterns for research foci in the field of psychology.
As of earlier this month, the article entitled "Deviance as an Historical Artifact: A Scoping Review of Psychological Studies of Body Modification" researched and written by Becci, me, Alex Landgraf, Steve Filoromo, and Mike Smetana, has been accepted for publication by Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.
Click here to read a preprint of the whole paper.
Discourse BHAM Tattoo Talk
The ad might seem a little cringe, since I'm far from famous, which is what is implied. However, my research has gone viral internationally, so I am known, but so is any anthropologists whose work has been published around the world. This is the type of hyperbole that is par for the course in promoting music, so it is fitting here. And, frankly, I find academics too reticent to market themselves and their work. If it because of concerns with hyperbolic headlines spreading misinformation, then I can sympathize and agree. However, if the concern is about being taken seriously, I think the real underlying fear is that there is not enough substance underlying the flash. So this ad made me chuckle more than anything, and apparently it worked. There was a great crowd in attendance, lots of folks came up and talked to me after, and we closed the place down shooting the breeze. Thanks to Lawrence and Janek and Monday Night Brewing Co.!
I went to AAA in Seattle this year because I'd convened a session with my PhD adviser Larry Schell and like Seattle. Unfortunately, it was cold, so I wasn't especially motivated to go out and about. For some reason, I didn't dress appropriately. I didn't think to get many photos. I was presenting during my session and up at the table of presenters in front, so I couldn't take them from there anyway.
The session went well. It was on the first day in a big room with only a few people there, so it was a little awkward. However, the goal of the session is to feel out a potential special issue and to meet and hear each other, so it served that purpose. Several of us went out afterwards to continue conversing, including a few attendees from Dmitris Xygalatas' lab at UConn. I am a big fan of Xygalatas' work, so it was flattering that they attended my talk as well.
Thursday and Friday I worked the podcast exhibit, which was a good call by the Dirt Podcast crew. They finagled free registration for podcasters who worked the booth, and it gave us an opportunity to make the association members aware of all the affiliated podcasts. I should have taken a photo of the posters we were encouraging visitors to photograph, but I wasn't that thoughtful to myself.
I had some good meetings with publishers about my next book, which will be about the tattoo project. Vanderbilt and Waveland seemed promising for different reasons. I like the enthusiasm and proximity of Vanderbilt, and the acquisitions editors seemed sharp and with it. Waveland very specifically targets undergrad courses, which I think a book on tattooing might do well in.
Friday was most of the Biological Anthropology Section (BAS) stuff, which is where I see most of my friends. There was a double session put together by Delaney Glass, a former Sausage of Science producer and doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, and Delaney's adviser, Melanie Martin. After that, Larry Schell and Alex Brewis invited me to join them for dinner with local Seattle anthropologist (& former postdoc of Alex) Sarah Trainer. We went to the BAS Awards ceremony after, and that was that.
I am grateful to the graciousness of the Auburn Sociology, Anthropology, & Social Work Department for hosting a volunteered book talk. I told them I'd like the excuse the come down to visit my son and offered to give it for free, but they insisted on paying and were very hospitable. Hoping to get out and about and do more of these talks, so don't be surprised if I invite myself to YOUR university (LOL).
New Sausage of Science Season
My cohost Cara Ocobock and I brought two new producers on this season and have produced new episodes with Andrea Silva-Caballero, Amanda Veile, Rachael Anyim, Zachary Cofran, Natalia Reagan, and Lara Durgavich. The producers, Cristina Gildee, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, and Eric Griffith, a postdoc at Duke who got his PhD from UMass under Lynnette Sievert. The Sausage of Science producers are supported as Junior Service Fellows of the Human Biology Association and the American Journal of Human Biology. Subscribe to the Sausage of Science on Soundcloud or wherever you get podcasts (except Spotify apparently [deep sigh]}.
AAA Talk Next Week
Larry Schell and I convened this session on "Religious and Spiritual Influences on Human Biology: The Unsettled Landscapes of Bodies in Culture" for the American Anthropological Association meetings in Seattle next week. We'll be giving this introduction to the session called "Theorizing Human Biological Variation Through the Lens of Religion and Spirituality."
It's an in-person, Invited Session by Biological Anthropology Section on Wednesday, 2:15-4PM Pacific Time if you're at the conference. Session includes presentations by Eric Shattuck, Bonnie Kaiser, Joshua Brahinsky, Susan Schaffnit, Susan Sheridan, and Lawrence Schell with Jessica Hardin as Discussant.
Auburn Talk This Friday
Auburn University's Anthropology Department was kind enough to invite me to give a talk about my new book, so my wife and I will be headed down this Friday to do that and hanging a bit with our son Jagger, who is a sophomore at Auburn. Please join us if you're in the area!
Storied Outdoors Podcast Interview
I had a fun interview with these local guys who are interested in the natural world and came across my fireside relaxation study article from 2014. There's the video interview below, as well as webpage with episode notes and a post-interview conversation.
I met journalist Stephanie DeMarco several years ago in Washington DC through a combined workshop of the AAAS Leshner Fellowship program for public engagement (which I was in) and another program for science journalism. She reached out to me a few months ago for a piece she was writing about therapeutic applications of tattooing for this piece in Drug Discovery News. It's a really well done article with a lot of great information and graphics. In addition to moi, she interviewed tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak and acupuncturist/tattooist Douglas Wingate, who have been guests on the Inking of Immunity podcast I cohost, and biomedical engineer Carson Bruns, who is on our invitation list for the coming season.
Christopher D. Lynn
I am a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama with expertise in biocultural medical anthropology.