To Die For: The Semiotic Seductive Power of the Tanned Body

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Vannini, Phillip
McCright, Aaron M.
Human skin burns with prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. This simple physiological process acquires meaning through social interaction—whereby tanned skin assumes symbolic and semiotic properties. In this article we examine the meanings of tanned skin by focusing on the semiotic seductive power of the tanned body. Drawing from forty qualititative interviews, we examine the motives, beliefs, and experiences of people who tan their skin artificially, that is, through exposure to tanning lamps, in order to understand how tanned skin assumes meaning for them. We analyze the practice of artificial tanning and the interplay among processes of seduction, impression management, self-expression, and the construction, exchange, and interpretation of embodied sign-values.
Original published version available electronically via Caliber: Journals of the University of California Press
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