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Revisiting (not so) Commonplace Ideas about the Body: Topia, Utopia and Heterotopia in the World of Tattooing

Consumer Culture Theory

ISBN: 978-1-78441-158-9, eISBN: 978-1-78441-157-2

Publication date: 22 November 2014



This paper brings a fresh contribution to the role of space and places in Consumer Culture Theory. Investigating the context of tattooing, it conceptualizes the various articulations that link the body as a topia and a utopia, and the street shops (as “other” places or heterotopia) where consumers’ identity projects are undertaken.


Our approach is based on an ethnographic work, that is, the observation of the shop and interviews conducted with its two managers, three male tattooists, and a young female apprentice.


We show how the changes that affect heterotopic places in the world of tattooing impact the way body identity projects are taken care of. We highlight the material and symbolic exchanges that “take place” and “make place” between the shop as a heterotopia and people’s utopias of the body.

Research limitations/implications

The research involves a single fieldwork and deliberately focuses on the female apprentice as the main informant of this study.

Social implications

This paper draws attentions to the emergence of women in the world of tattooing and their transformative role of highly gendered meanings and practices.

Originality/value of paper

In articulating the links between bodies, their utopias and heterotopic places where these are carried out, we contribute not only to the understanding of the meaning that consumers attribute to the transformation of their body, but also to the role played by spaces – sites as well as gendered bodies – in our understanding of these phenomena.




The author thanks the management and staff of Studio 54 in Nantes, especially A. and the three male tattooists who work together and share the same “box”, for their welcome and the support they gave to this project. The present paper could not have been written without their help and invaluable comments. I also warmly thank my reviewers and Jeff Murray for their very useful and constructive comments that helped me improve the paper. Finally, I extend my warmest thanks to Michael Westlake, my translator, for the quality of his work and the elegant fidelity with which he makes my texts travel overseas.


Roux, D. (2014), "Revisiting (not so) Commonplace Ideas about the Body: Topia, Utopia and Heterotopia in the World of Tattooing", Consumer Culture Theory (Research in Consumer Behavior, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 59-80.



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