Marking our experiences in ink

As a bonding experience, four GLOCAL students decided to permanently mark their experience with this Master’s program. On one sunny Saturday morning, they met at Black Ship Tattoo near Sagrada Familia, and each got a different tattoo — something personally meaningful to them. Below, the students describe their respective tattoos and the meaning associated with them.


Tattoos as the ritual of marking the body to remember

Ten years ago, I came to Barcelona to study the Programa de Estudios Independientes (PEI) at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona (MACBA). My classmate Caroline, a tattoo artist, invited us to do a tattoo for free. But there was one condition: we had to do it ourselves as a ritual of the experience we were going through. That tattoo has always been a reminder of who I was back then, and it usually brings nice topics of conversation with people that see it. 

This year, I am studying in Barcelona again, but in a very different program: GLOCAL. However, the topics that make me feel passionate are similar. I am interested in being critical about the economic, political and social systems we have developed as humans, and how they affect diverse people differently. One particular class on Political Ecology has made GLOCAL worth it for me. The concept of degrowth, and the pluriverse of alternatives, have made me feel connected again with my beliefs and ideals. I wanted to share the ritual of marking my body to remember this experience. On this occasion, we did it together with Mel, Anna, and Johan. I got a snail — a symbol of degrowth — with a spiral inside, which reminds me that I want to continue pursuing the utopias I believe in, with loving, passionate, determined people that are also wanting to look for alternative lifestyles.      


The tattoo I got is a simple black circle on my right arm. On the one hand, I really love minimalistic tattoos, but there is also a meaning behind it. During my Bachelor’s, I already got a tattoo in the shape of a simple square together with three friends. We were studying in the German city of Mannheim – the city of squares — and wanted to get a tattoo together that would always remind us of our beautiful time there. For my Master’s, I knew that I wanted to get a second tattoo and I was more than happy to find new friends to do it with (because alone I think I would be too scared haha). The reason I chose the circle is the following: while I already have a square that represents the “local” perspective on the world for me (I was also studying local economic development in my Bachelor’s), the circle should now represent the holistic “global” perspective I was gaining through GLOCAL. For a sustainable, equal and loving future I think we need to look at economic, political and social processes from both perspectives and become a real GLOCAL citizen.


Just as a conjunction of dots creates an image, the union of moments makes up life. The marks that every human being carries on their skin are reminders of those events that, usually by force, become permanent and tell stories of how they got to where they are. The magic of tattoos is that they are a voluntary expression of the human need to remember, thus becoming scars that we choose to carry to help memory preserve what is important. Being plastic manifestations of rational and aesthetic intentions, their artistic value is implicit and with it their poetic-symbolic power. GLOCAL has become one of those events in life that is worth remembering and what better than to do it with its people, through them and looking for a way to find a symbol that captures what they represent. An anthropomorphic figure, without gender assignment, that is composed of a continuous line, that has no fixed direction and that like life itself and people seems so abstract and unpredictable, but is so easy to recognize that it feels close. That was the result of the mental process of imagining something that embodied all the dynamism of the present experience and above all of the people that accompany it. In the end, a stroke of light solved the problem of capturing movement in a still image. Now, the narrative of what is important in this part of my life has been incorporated and honestly it is one of those experiences that in itself is worth remembering.


Shortly before starting GLOCAL, I went through a period in my life where I kind of desensitized myself from a lot of things. After being burnt out from working in environmental politics and journalism, I think I became cynical of anything ever changing and of the impact I could personally have, and so instead, I chose to stop caring altogether. Political Ecology at the University of Barcelona changed that for me, and I have gone back to caring about the environment and injustice. Even more so, the class has given me hope for the future, by helping me to think outside of the box and imagine a different kind of society. It’s empowered me to want to make meaningful change. That’s why I also got a snail tattoo: it is the official symbol of degrowth, and to me, it also represents slowing down and caring for the earth and for each other. I have always felt somewhat behind in life, taking a bit longer to finish things or reach certain milestones compared with some of my colleagues and friends, and the snail reminds me that that’s okay, and that everyone takes things in their own stride.