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Articles - CfP Topic

Vol. 7 No. 1 (2021): Materiality of Writing. Reconsidering Religious Texts

The Tattoos of Armenian Genocide Survivors: Inscribing the Female Body as a Practice of Regulation

August 31, 2020


In the course of the Armenian Genocide (1915–1917), an unknown number of female victims were forcibly tattooed, often on the face. Inscribing them with an alien identity, their captors permanently regulated the women’s bodies in order to assimilate them into their communities. Some women eventually escaped and found shelter in orphanages or women’s houses, but the tattoos remained on their skin, constituting a barrier to their reintegration. These women were stigmatized and shunned, their tattoos seen as a sign of sexual impurity and “transculturation”. The tattoos needed to be removed – and the women’s bodies regulated once again. Approaching tattoos as a means of regulation, this article explores how inscription materializes power dynamics in the context of the female body.