York University Faculty Web Site

The Tattoo Project

When the website is ready, participants will be able to upload their tattoo photos and their stories.  Stories may be submitted to the archive in written, video, or audio format.  Participants will have control over their content, and will be able to change or delete information as they wish.


The purpose of the digital archive is fourfold:


1) to create a repository for commemorative tattoos, a forum which will enable the public to share their commemorative tattoos and contextualizing narratives, empowering users to make the project a social tool of their own;


2) to develop this repository as a cultural heritage site, which will preserve and circulate this unique artistic form of expressing and memorializing contemporary lived experience;


3) to provide scholars with a digital database for analysis; and


4) to develop ongoing relationships among academics, professionals (e.g. artists, counselors and social workers, and celebrants) and the public (with and without tattoos).

Tattoo by

 Keith Winterbottom

 Citrus City Tattoo

Bits About …


Me:  I’m a tattooed sociologist who teaches at York University in Toronto.  My current research passion focuses on the meanings tattoos have for people.  If you have conventional views about who gets tattooed and you saw me, you wouldn’t think I have tattoos!  I am married to a guy who has tattoos.  I have a son with no tattoos, a stepson and daughter-in-law with tattoos.  I’ve had seven companion animals, two of whom were tattooed; the others were micro-chipped.


I conceived of The Tattoo Project because no such secure and scholarly repository exists.  I knew I could not nor did I wish to develop the archive on my own.  I’m a ‘public sociologist’ for whom collaborative, community-based research is important.  I’ve had the good fortune to enlist the support from a wonderful team of interdisciplinary researchers and community members for The Tattoo Project.  As a public sociologist, one of my goals is to engage wider audiences in sociology and to create collaborative contributions to knowledge.  Consistent with my view of how knowledge can be negotiated and created, I have edited a book about commemorative tattoos, the purpose of which is to disrupt boundaries and categories.  The book, published by Canadian Scholars’ Press is a book that bridges academic and popular audiences.




If you have an interest in participating in The Tattoo Project as one of our team members, please use the Contact link to tell us about your interest.


The Book:  The Tattoo Project: Commemorative Tattoos, Visual Culture, and the Digital Archive,  will appeal to anyone interested in tattoos.  Look for Ellie on the cover!  I’ll keep you posted here.


Tattoos are often more than body art, and more than cool or deviant artifacts of subcultures. The Tattoo Project disrupts commonly held notions about who gets tattooed and why. This is a book about the meanings people make from their experiences of love, loss, trauma, resilience, and change, and the significant events in their lives, and why they choose to inscribe those meanings on their bodies.


More than being about tattoos, The Tattoo Project also describes and discusses the process of building a community–based digital archive. The archive will be for use by persons with tattoos, for sharing their photos and stories, and by anyone interested in tattoos and their significance.

The Tattoo Project