Human Hair: Intrigues and Complications.

AuthorOmotoso, Sharon Adetutu

Human hair plays significant roles in the development of social constructs about the body. For centuries black people around the world were discriminated against because of their skin, hair and culture. White attributes, including straight hair, were constructed as ideal, hence compelling black women to emulate Western hairstyles. Consequently, hair formed a subtle, yet substantive tool for Pan-Africanists' and black nationalists' struggles for liberation, equality and independence. A more fundamental dimension of hair is its political underpinning which is highly contentious. The politics of Black hair is quite unique, with varying situations from different parts of the world. For instance, despite India's shared colonial experience with Africa, Indian women have largely retained their cultural hairstyle-basically because they do not have the coarse, kinky hair which is peculiar to Africa and requires straightening. In other parts of the world, multiracial, liberal and environmental factors have conventionally determined hairstyles, with fashion and fad being more recent explanations for hairstyles in contemporary societies.

In recent past, there has been the renaissance and consciousness of black beauty which spurred a rise of the natural hair movement, bearded gangs and campaigns which resonate with political and racial agencies and the rupturing of black hair stereotypes and stigma. On this note, hair as a discourse in body politics raises critical issues in economics, social life, international relations and religious settings (Omotoso, 2016) requiring that analytical, intellectual and practical ideas to address a number of inter-related problems spanning power relations, urbanity, poverty, identity among others that would broaden the scholarly attention of the hair discourse be brought to the fore using case studies and experiences rooted in praxis from scholars and practitioners. Having noted how this visible component of identity-making in Black history has not enjoyed sufficiently robust scholarly attention, we have brought scholars across the globe to discuss salient emerging issues in this regard.

Starting with the paper titled "Gender and Hair Politics: An African Philosophical Analysis" Sharon Omotoso set out by philosophizing hair politics in Africa along gender lines. The article is unique because of its emphasis on gender and Africanness. She discusses how human hair influences African thoughts which equally connotes a...

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