Contemporary Scarification

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Western microcultures, such as the modern primitives and punks, as well as fraternities and sororities, practice scarification. Scarification among these cultural groups varies in sig nificance, such as group identity, personal identity, rite of passage, spiritual belief, and connection to tribal cultures. These microcultures utilize a variety of methods of scarification, such as cutting, packing, ink rubbings, skinning, abrasion, and chemical agents to acquire desired scarification patterns or designs.

Cutting. Cutting is a form of scarification that involves cutting the surface of the skin with a sharp instrument, such as a sharpened bone, small medical scalpel, or razor blade, called a scarifier. Contemporary cutting tools may be either single-piece disposable units or blades that can be mounted on an assortment of handles. Cuts are about one-sixteenth of an inch deep; deeper cuts increase the amount of scarring and the chances of complications, while shallow cuts may heal without scarring, negating the purpose of the modification.

Emphasizing scars. Maintaining an open wound by repeatedly re-cutting the healing skin will result in a more pronounced scar; it will also delay the healing process and may result in serious health-related complications. Packing also creates more pronounced scars by introducing inert substances, such as ashes or clay, into the open incisions or lifting cut areas of skin and allowing the scars to heal around or over it. While cicatrisation can refer to any scar, it is usually used in connection with more pronounced scars resulting from packing.

Ink rubbing is a cutting in which indelible tattoo ink or other pigment is rubbed into a fresh cut. The ink remains in the cut as it heals, resulting in a colored scar. Although the intensity varies from person to person, this method creates more visible scars for lighter skin tones.

Skinning. Skinning is a common method used to create large areas of scarification. An outline of the designated area to be scarred is cut. Then the scarifier or a lifting tool is placed under the surface of the skin to lift and remove it in manageable sections. An alternative skinning method, to increase the scarring, is to pack inert materials under the lifted skin and allow it to heal. The healing process is lengthy and complications may occur. This method creates large and more precise scarification areas.

Abrasion Scarification. Abrasion scarification is achieved by using friction to remove the dermis layers of skin to create scarring. Power tools equipped with sandpaper, steel wool, or grinding stones are a few of the instruments employed to create abrasion scarification. Abrasion scarification can also be achieved with manual pressure, but power tools expedite the process. This method creates subtle scars, unless excessive pressure is applied with the abrasion scarifier.

Chemical Scarification. Chemical scarification uses chemical compounds, such as liquid nitrogen, to damage and burn the skin, which results in scarring. Intricate designs are difficult to achieve with liquid chemical agents, otherwise the results are similar to other types of scari fication. This method is relatively new and there is little research on it.

Scarification Risks. As with most permanent body modifications, scarification has been associated with aesthetic and health-related risks. The resulting appearances of the scars vary, because there are so many variables in the healing process. Scarification may take a year to completely heal, and longer if skinning or packing is involved. During the initial healing process diligent care is necessary in order to avoid infections.

Additional health-related risks include improper technique, such as cutting too deep, or acquiring blood-borne infections such as hepatitis B and C. Appropriate measures should be taken by scarification practitioners to assure the health and safety of their clients. Equipment and instruments that will be used for more than one client are sterilized in an autoclave, a high temperature steamer that kills blood-borne pathogens and bacterial agents. The area of skin to be scarred is disinfected and prepared by the scarification practitioner. During the scarification process, the skin is continually cleaned of excess blood and is disinfected.

See also Body Piercing; Branding; Modern Primitives; Tattoos. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Beck, Peggy, Nia Francisco, and Anna Lee Walters, eds. The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life. Tsaile, Ariz.: Navajo Community College Press, 1995. Bohannon, Paul. "Beauty and Scarification among the Tiv."

Man 51 (1956): 117-121. Camphausen, Rufus C. Return to the Tribal: A Celebration of Body

Adornment. Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, 1997. Rubin, Arnold, ed. Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformation of the Human Body. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1988.

Vale, V. Modern Primitives: An Investigation of Contemporary Adornment and Ritual. San Francisco Re/Search Publications, 1989.

Theresa M. Winge

SCHIAPARELLI, ELSA The Italian-born Elsa Schi-aparelli (1890-1973) was in many ways an outsider, yet one who successfully made her way to the heart of French haute couture in the interwar years, operating her business between 1927 and 1954. Born in Rome in 1890, the daughter of an orientalist scholar, she first left Italy in

1913. She traveled via Paris to London, where she married a theosophist named Wilhelm Went de Kerlor in

1914. During World War I, she and her husband moved in artistic and cosmopolitan circles between Europe and the United States. When Schiaparelli separated from her husband in the early 1920s, she returned to Paris with her young daughter. There she came to know Paul Poiret, who often loaned the impoverished young woman dresses to wear.

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