”Yks ja ainoa hautaan saakka”. Merimiestatuoinnin ritualistiset ja sosiaaliset ulottuvuudet muistelukerronnassa


  • Jari Ruotsalainen




Sailors’ tattoos are one of the stereotypical manifestations of this micro-group’s habits and norms. The article discusses sailors’ tattoos, their visual imagery, backgrounds and social meanings. The analysis is centred on ritualistic and social extensions linked to sailor tattoos. These are discussed in the framework of social identity and Goffman’s theories about social interaction as theatrical performance. The primary materials for the research are group and mutual oral history interviews that took place during the spring and summer of 2013 in Uusikaupunki, Helsinki, Kotka and Kuopio, Finland. The oldest of the nine interviewees was born in 1926 and the youngest in 1953.

The article shows that old sailors want to distinctly separate their old tradition of tattooing from both the modern tattoo culture and prisoners’ tattoos. The landlubbers cannot make a difference between prisoners’ and sailors’ tattoos, and tattooing has not, since lately, been part of a normative representation of the human body. This has caused dramaturgical problems for the tattooed sailors in their social life. Old sailor tattoos are once respected and disappearing status symbols and marks of a unique professional group, hardworking men and a very masculine culture. Consequently, sailors’ tattoos are part of their social identity.





Ruotsalainen, J. (2014). ”Yks ja ainoa hautaan saakka”. Merimiestatuoinnin ritualistiset ja sosiaaliset ulottuvuudet muistelukerronnassa. Elore, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.30666/elore.79124



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