Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-10-2019


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Eva Simms

Committee Member

Susan Goldberg

Committee Member

Lori Koelsch


Existential Phenomenology; Hermeneutic Phenomenology; Thematic Analysis; Tattoos; Female Embodiment; Gendered Embodiment; Body Politics


This dissertation is a phenomenological research study about the lived experiences of women who elected to get tattoos in the last five years. Due to historical and present discourses on female embodiment and persistent stigmas and pathologies often associated with tattoos, I sought to generate meaningful knowledge about the lived experiences of women who have voluntarily chosen this form of body modification. I conducted phenomenological research interviews with nine participants about personal meanings, decision making processes, and lived experiences of embodiment (capturing existential themes of lived body, spatiality, relationality, and time) before and after tattooing. I applied thematic interpretation of participants’ data using Van Manen’s approach to hermeneutic phenomenological interpretation. Through this analysis, four global themes emerged: Identity and Selfhood Captured in Tattoos, Power and Control Asserted through Tattoos, Tattoos as Interpersonal/Relational, and Meaning vs. Aesthetics in Tattoos. These themes were then situated and discussed within the field of body politics. My research findings predominantly indicated that tattoos serve as a nexus for personal, interpersonal, and cultural spheres of experience, and personal meanings and impacts can be understood from this broader perspective. Specifically, tattoos represent varying degrees of tension between self/others/world, and individual processes related to this act identify ways in which women respond and adapt to oppression as it relates to female embodiment in the socio-cultural world.