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Locating Home

Gavi's picture

            We talked last class about the power of calling our own bodies “home.”  Clare’s book repeatedly addresses the body as home, as a habitat as important for exploration as Clare’s northwestern home forests and the factors that have influenced his growth as an individual. I have to wonder, though, if all the talk of creating a home in a body underscores a long-held and often destructive dichotomy of mind/body in western culture. This dichotomy distinguishes the body as something foreign, something to be understood and mastered by the mind (which also encompasses soul/spirit/personality/etc.).

            Does calling our bodies “home” unnecessarily separate the mind (which is doing the calling/naming) from the body? I think that separating my power for naming from my body is a comforting notion. By calling my body home, I can contain the essence of my self, as a thing capable of naming and designating, into something separate and “above” the body. This naming creates an implicit hierarchy of value—as long as I still have the faculty of reason, of naming, the state of my physical body is relatively immaterial. But what if someone, for whatever reason, cannot “name” her body as home? Can she still exist as a “full” person? What does that even mean?

            I don’t know if there’s any way we can live without naming our “selves” as distinct from our bodies. We are naming creatures.  I’m reminded of the opening chapters of the Bible, when God brings all the animals to Adam. These animals were newly created and without labels.  Whatever Adam decided to call each animal, then, “that was its name.” Adam created his existence through words and through separations, much in the way that we distinguish the mind from the body and from the soul in talking about our experiences.

            I do think labels are necessary and often beneficial. To stick with the Biblical example, I cannot imagine a world where other, non-human creatures were uncategorized and unnamed. But I think, maybe, instead of “calling” our own bodies home, we can focus on existing as home, on recognizing that our cognition and our bodily functions and our spirit are all interconnected, all inseparable, and all crucial to our self-understanding.



venn diagram's picture

Body as Home: Tattoos


little fish eat big fish

(the inspiration for my future tattoo)

I also have been thinking a lot about the question of calling our bodies “home,” especially in relation to body art. I think tattoos are an interesting medium to help think about many important critical issues about one’s body. Within the last week I had an interesting conversation with someone who asked me “why not get a a t-shirt of [the image which inspires your tattoo]? Or put a poster of it up on your wall?” Although unable to articulate at the time, I feel a level of importance and dedication to a message can be achieved only through a tattoo, whether it is because it is with me always, or because it is on my “home,” I am not sure, but it is worth thinking about it. Ironically, when I returned home after said conversation I saw an acquaintance's facebook status which read “TATTOOS are the only thing you take to the GRAVE. Having tattoos does not make someone a delinquent or a thug. Its art people. Art is about self expression and creativity. Some people hang their art... I wear mine... Repost if you have Ink and are proud of it ♥ :)”  Although her explanation does not resonate particularly strongly for me, I am very interested in both her own affirmation of her tattoo and her choice to defend it publicly against a perceived critic who presumably believes tattoos “make someone a delinquent or a thug.”

In my own family tattoos are a point of contention. I know very well that my family is incredibly anti-tattoo. My dad, who grew up conservative Jewish, for religious reasons, and also for the moral character mentality that my sister and mom share. For those of you interested in the religious aspect I found a NYT article “For Some Jews, It Only Sounds like ‘Taboo’” which tackles some of the myths surrounding Judaism and tattoos ( Although rarely explicitly voiced (I tend to avoid the topic) it is clear that my mom believes tattoos belong on a certain sub-set of individuals who do not come from “good” families, do not have bright futures and are overall a sign of dissent, rebellion and ultimately failure.

Tattoos, in my family, have always been framed as something that is not allowed. I could delve into my family dynamic as to why permission is needed, but I think the point is understandable on its own. If a tattoo is on your own body, why should one’s parents, or partner, or partner’s family (as I heard in one case recently) have a say in what goes on it? Can your body truly be your home if your family, or society, or otherwise dictates how you are able to decorate it (or how you will be perceived if you decorate it in a deviante way anyway)? Or if you do get a tattoo, or a piercing, or wear your hair a certain way, are you ever really just decorating your home for yourself? Are you always making an outward statement as well?