Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

African American Studies

Advisor(s)

Linda Carty

Keywords

Black Feminism, Black women's hair, Capitalism, Gender, London, Race

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Hair is a remarkably complex material-semiotic entity. Caught on the cusp between self/society, meticulously contrived and purposely styled, hair is crucial in the articulation of identity and difference. However, although scholars have focused a great deal of attention on the body as a site of cultural production and identity politics, discussions surrounding hair have been largely ignored and relegated to the realm of the trivial or inconsequential

-Nicole Dawn Watson iii

This project examines how Black women in London wear their hair, and the ways in which this is impacted by racialized gender within the context of their neocolonial lived experiences. I focused on London because it is the primary cosmopolitan city in the United Kingdom, and Britain (also known as Great Britain, which includes Wales, Scotland and England- where London is located) was the main colonizing power when it began an imperial process of enslaving Africans across the world. I collected data through a series of interviews, social experiments, photography, memoir documentation, academic analyses, feminist conferences and events. I drew from and built upon Black British feminism (also expressed as Black feminism in the British context), African, Caribbean and US Black feminism, as well as a gendered approach to Pan Africanism to deconstruct British capitalism and how it continues to commodify and exploit Black women's bodies, including their hair. Recognizing how the emphasis on British capitalism provided the impetus for understanding neocolonialism in London and the ways in which social politics negatively affect Black women, I primarily explore the discourses of difference, power, migration and resistance. Studying these critical discourses, I argue that it is necessary for us to deconstruct gender, race and class in London. This contextualized my main argument that how Black women wear their hair is deeply connected to the ways in which they are racialized and gendered within Britain. Moreover, this is critical to the varying ways in which they use their hair to challenge and resist the legacies of colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and migration.

Access

Open Access

Available for download on Thursday, June 20, 2019

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