In the thick of it: a study of hair and its intersections with identity, politics, and culture.

deadline for submissions: 
September 20, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Darina Pugacheva/Louisiana State University
contact email: 

Hair as a source of a serious study and research is often trivialized and overlooked. The Foreword to the volume entitled Hair: Styling, Culture and Fashion (2008) expresses the idea that “hair [has] exciting and diverse potential as an academic topic […], so critical analysis of its practice and experience provides a fascinating and engaging entry point to contemporary debates around the body and its fashioning” (ix).  It calls for “a serious approach” to hair, as “a subject area richly deserving of new research” (ix).  Indeed, hair is an exciting field of research that recently, mostly due to the rise of fashion and hairstyles of African diaspora, has started to get more recognition. Besides the natural hair movement, that is becoming more and more prominent every year in the USA and the world, hair and head adornments remain in the news headlines with US Army regulations on hairstyles for women soldiers, Muslim headscarves’ bans in France, controversy around unconventional male hair in Iran, and many more. Hair and its management, being in the intersection of creative, experimental, practical, but also cultural and political is both a personal and a social practice, and as such remains fundamental to understanding our experiences as humans.

Terence Turner in “The Social Skin” explores the surface of the body as “the symbolic stage upon which the drama of socialization is enacted” through the language of bodily adornment (486). Hair plays a crucial role in this drama. Like skin, it defines our identity and tells others who we are. “Hair, like skin, is a ‘natural’ part of the surface of the body, but unlike skin it continually grows outwards, erupting from the body into the social space beyond it” (488). In many cultures hair is used as means of communication of the social self: it speaks of mourning or distress, of a religious obligation, or a choice. In this sense it unifies the experiences of men and women in postcolonial era and gives them agency to engage in this “drama of socialization” and grants them voices (486).

This interdisciplinary seminar invites paper submissions on diverse topics of hair and haircare, that will discuss hair in its relationship to culture and identity. The ways hair is influenced by social and political regulations, and how hair is represented and manifested in world literature and art are of particular interest. Let’s discuss hair in its gender and cultural diversity.

Please submit an abstract of 200-250  words (please note that ACLA submission website allows to submit only 1500 characters, including spaces ) for a 20-minute presentation, and a short bio through the ACLA website between Thursday, August 30, at 12 noon EST and Thursday, September 20, at 9 a.m. EST. Email dpugac1@lsu.eduwith any questions.

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