Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-7-2021


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Erik Garrett

Committee Member

Anthony M. Wachs

Committee Member

Craig T. Maier


identity, trauma, memory, semiotics, performance studies, tattoo, Holocaust, 9/11, spatial-temporal, rhetoric, communication


In this current historical moment, tattoos and tattooing have become a glorified cultural phenomenon that has been thousands of years in the making. The idea that tattoos can be used to express one’s identity is not a new concept — various fields, such as anthropology, cultural studies, and sociology, have studied the relationship between tattoos and identity. In this dissertation, I explore the signification and performative aspects of Auschwitz concentration camp tattoos and 9/11 memorial tattoos, while also considering the changes in meaning and interpretation that occur within and throughout space and time. Chapter one introduces the topic and provides the reader with the statement of significance and literature review. Chapter two then introduces a brief review of the theory of semiotics and performance studies, followed by a review of the various concepts within trauma and memory studies that are utilized in chapters three through five. These three application chapters explicate the important roles that tattoos play in the construction of identity as they relate to memory and trauma. Finally, chapter six provides implications, potential future research topics, and concluding sentiments. Ultimately, this dissertation explores the relationship between tattoos and identity, grounded in trauma, as a form of visual narratology within the communication and rhetoric field, guided by the semiotic tradition and the field of performance studies.