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Nappy Hair in the Diaspora: Exploring the Cultural Politics of Hair among Women of African Descent


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1 NAPPY HAIR IN THE DIASPORA: EXPL ORING THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF HAIR AMONG WOMEN OF AFRICAN DESCENT By SYBIL DIONE ROSADO A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Sybil Dione Rosado

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3 For my grandmothers and their great-great-great granddaughters.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS For me the process of obtaining a Ph.D. has b een a long and difficult journey that could not have been completed without the guidance and support of my committee and in particular my committee chair. When I first began graduate sc hool, I heard stories abou t the value of locating a good advisor. My ideal hope had been to find someone who would be willing to assist me in selecting a dissertation topic, read my drafts, an d help edit my dissertation attempts. I never dreamed that I would find a professor who w ould be willing to go beyond these academically prescribed basics and offer me tips on profession al development, help me get my first papers published, and swaddle me in moral and persona l support. I found all of this in Dr. Irma McClaurin. She has been my professor, my prof essional development advisor, my departmental political analyst, my theoretical parent, and ul timately my spiritual a nd temporal guide through the mire called academia. Second, I would like to thank Dr. marilyn m. thomas-houston for her courage and dedication to my work. Third, I wo uld like to thank Dr. Joe Feagin, for providing deep insight into the world of departmental politics, White raci sm, and their impact on my self esteem. Fourth, I am grateful to Dr. Faye Ha rrison for her thought-provoking discussions that always manage to push my thinking just a little bit further. Fifth, I thank Dr. Kenneth Sassaman for encouraging me to, explore the relationship between the structural components of culture and lived experiences. Finally, I thank Dr. Stephanie Evans, for believing in me even before she knew my name. Overall, I would like to thank you all for serving on my committee and being stellar mentors and academic leaders. Many thanks go to other professors who suppor ted my efforts during graduate school and the dissertation process: Drs. Boyce Davies, Cher yl Rodriguez, John Moore, Allan Burns, Steve Borgatti, Jeff Johnson, Susan Weller, and H. Ru ssell Bernard. I am also grateful to the

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5 colleagues I have encountered at Benedict College such as Drs. Gloria Boutte, Stephen Criswell, Larry Watson, and especially Jacqueline Brice-Finch. I am grateful to all of the members of the Mc Knight Doctoral Family for the years of love and support the program participan ts and administrators have provided me. I am especially indebted to Dr. Jonathan Gayl es. Dr Gayles thank you for believing in me and pushing me to continue to pursue my McKni ght dream. I also want to thank Dr. Morehouse and Charles Jackson for helping me keep my dream alive. I am forever grateful to the la te Dr. Israel Tribble, former President of the Florida Education F und and Dr. Bettye Parker Smith, former Vice President and Senior Program Officer for Th e Florida Education Fund and the McKnight Doctoral program they administer ed. I would never have been able to enroll in or complete a doctorate without the generous financial and emotional support provided by these individuals through this program. I will always be proud that I was allowed to become a member of the McKnight Doctoral Family. I would like to thank Benedict College, and all Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I am a product of one and now a faculty member at wh at I consider to be some of the greatest institutions in America. I acknowledge my origins and believe that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs ) are the foundation of Black academicians in America. I will always be grateful to the Facult y Resource Network program at New York University. This program gave me the opportunity to spend a summer as a scholar in residence where I was able to finalize my dissertation topi c. Ultimately, the experience at NYU helped get me back on track when I had almost give n up on the possibility of earning a Ph.D.

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6 I thank the Mellon/UNCF fellowship program for the financial support that allowed me to complete my research. You cannot imagine how much time I was saved by having the support for a years leave-of-absence from my full-time teaching position. So many friends helped me along the way that it would be impossible for me to list them all. I thank Dawn-Elisse Banks for helping me get through the Master's degree; your constant reminders about writing with cl arity and logic remain important lessons. Dr. Terry Weik and Natalie Washington-Weik, thank you for bei ng good Afrocentric role models; and Angela Blalock, you helped me keep my sanity in South Carolina. Ermitte St. Jacques, Flemming Daugaard-Hansen, Tracey Graham Maxine Downs, and Deborah Rodman, thank you all for teaching me what it means to have academ ic colleagues. Often times, your talks and encouragement were just the cure I needed to keep me going. Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, thank you for everything and I mean everything. You have been a pillar of strength in my life and without you more than just the dissertation would remain incomplete. To Keisha Duncan, Robert Adams, John Warford, and Clarissa a nd Danny Wright, thank you for your friendship. Dr. Lori Wilson thank you for being the nicest woman I have ever met. Without your constant encouragement, I would never have believed that this could be done. Sili Recio, thank you for always being there for me, even when I was not able to return the favor. Your daily email messages, your poetry, and your short stories have sustai ned me. Bridgette Bundrage, tha nk you for being my first best friend. I wish to sincerely thank all of the women who shared their lives, pa ins, joys, and stories about hair with me via interviews, beauty shop talk s, and the internet surv ey. This dissertation is really about their stories and I am grateful that they trusted me to be their modern-day griot.

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7 I have been blessed to have the continual suppor t of my family. Despite the fact that most of you did not understand the dissertation process, you remained confident in your belief that I could finish: Dr. Sydell LeGr ande, Sandra Johnson, Kathy Davi dson, Bonnie Brown and Vivian Oliver. I would like to extend a special thanks to my father Don Johnson who made it possible for me to call myself a visual anthropologist. He found me the financial support for state-of-theart cameras and video editing equipment. I tha nk my brother Don for years of friendship and intellectually stimulating conversation. All my love and gratitude goes to my husba nd Craig Rosado and my son Nicholas Rosado for understanding when I required is olation and pampering. I am pa rticularly grateful to my husband for taking charge of our household and as pects of our personal life so that I could concentrate all of my energy on research and wri ting. I thank my grandmother Sybil Barnes for being a Black female educational and entrep reneurial pioneer. All of my grandmothers sacrifices have borne fruit in he r children and the lives she touched with her cultural enrichment programs. My grandmother taught me that, anyt hing the mind can percei ve and truly believe you can achieve. Last, but certainly not least, I thank my moth er Dr. Sybil K. Barnes, for teaching me that the only work worth doing is something that you love and giving me the courage to pursue my dreams. Despite the fact that most people percei ve my mother to be a sweet, quiet, passive person, I have learned to be brave, adventuresom e, and even heroic from her examples. I have followed her all over the world and I know that I never would have considered teaching anthropology as a career choice wi thout her leadersh ip and support. Ultimately, I must also thank God for the multitude of times Her love has protected me even from myself.

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8 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF FIGURES................................................................................................................ .......11 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ............15 CHAPTER 1 REPOSSESSING THE BLACK FEMALE BO DY: IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION AND APPEARANCE IN TH E AFRICAN DIASPORA.......................................................17 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........17 Purpose of Study..............................................................................................................17 The Problem....................................................................................................................19 Research Questions............................................................................................................. ....22 Justification of Study......................................................................................................... .....23 Significance of Study.......................................................................................................... ....27 Historicizing Blackness...................................................................................................27 Linking Color to Race.....................................................................................................27 Black Female Bodies.......................................................................................................29 Performing Identity in the Diaspora................................................................................31 Agency, Perception, and Hair..........................................................................................32 Functional Definitions of Key Hairstyle Terms.....................................................................34 Basic Hair Biology..........................................................................................................34 Black Hairstyles...............................................................................................................36 Summary and Conclusions.....................................................................................................40 2 THEORIZING THE BODY AN D HAIR: A HISTORICAL LITERATURE REVIEW.......57 Socioeconomic and Cultural Construction of the Body.........................................................58 Psychoanalytical and Anthropological Literature on Hair Symbolism..................................61 Hair among African-Descended Women in the American South..........................................67 Black Hair Historiography......................................................................................................70 Literature Review on Black Hair............................................................................................75 3 METHODOLOGY AND METHODS...................................................................................85 Methodology.................................................................................................................... .......85 Methods........................................................................................................................ ..........92 Research Settings.............................................................................................................. ......93 Researcher as the Instrument and Initial Setting.............................................................93 Second Setting: The Beauty Shop...................................................................................95 Third Setting: The Virtual World....................................................................................95 Sample Selections and Descriptions.......................................................................................97

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9 Data Collection Techniques..................................................................................................103 Participant Observation.................................................................................................103 Focus Groups.................................................................................................................105 Dialogic Interviews.......................................................................................................106 Hair Stories as Data.......................................................................................................106 Online Survey................................................................................................................109 Hair Experiment............................................................................................................113 Conclusions.................................................................................................................... .......114 4 HAIR STORIES AND INTERVIEW DATA......................................................................120 Exploring the Shared Meanings of Ha ir: Rituals, Symbols, and Beliefs..............................121 Hair Rituals................................................................................................................... ........122 Ritualized Pain Makes You Beautiful!..........................................................................122 Hair Rituals=Happiness.................................................................................................125 Hair Symbols................................................................................................................... .....126 Hair as a Signifier of Racial Difference........................................................................126 Good-n-Bad Hair...........................................................................................................129 Symbolic Socialization and Social Capital...........................................................................133 Why Hair Really Matters...............................................................................................135 Hair=Sexual Attractiven ess and Orientation.................................................................136 Hair=Level of Professionalism......................................................................................138 Hair=Social Class..........................................................................................................140 Hair Beliefs................................................................................................................... ........143 Hair Beliefs, Identity and Folklore................................................................................143 Conclusion..................................................................................................................... .......145 5 SURVEY, EXPERIMENTAL AND PA RTICIPANT OBSERVATION DATA................160 Demographics................................................................................................................... ....160 Age by Geography.........................................................................................................161 Age by Income..............................................................................................................161 Income by Hair Care Expenditures...............................................................................161 Survey Data.................................................................................................................... ......163 Hair Pain=Beauty..........................................................................................................163 Hair Ritual=Happiness..................................................................................................165 Hair=Race......................................................................................................................166 Good-n-Bad Hair...........................................................................................................166 Hair=Sex....................................................................................................................... .166 Hair=Professionalism....................................................................................................167 Hair=Identity.................................................................................................................168 Hair Experiment Data...........................................................................................................169 Photo Number One: Short Relaxed with Tint...............................................................170 Photo Number Two: Medium Relaxed Bob..................................................................171 Photo Number Three: Short Re laxer with Burgundy Streaks.......................................171 Photo Number Four: Medium Length Curly Natural....................................................172 Photo Number Five: Blonde Shoul der Length Asymmetrical Cut................................172

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10 Photo Number Six: Bu rgundy Braid Extensions...........................................................173 Photo Number Seven Dreadlocks..................................................................................173 Photo Number Eight Long Perm...................................................................................173 Photo Number Nine Curly Hair.....................................................................................174 Photo Number Ten Burgundy Layered Perm................................................................174 Photo Number Eleven Platinum Blonde Perm..............................................................174 Photo Number Twelve Long Curly Perm......................................................................175 Most Ethnic Appearance...............................................................................................175 Most Professional/Conservati ve/Attractive Appearance...............................................176 Most Ghetto Appearance...............................................................................................176 Most Likely Real Hair...................................................................................................177 Participant Observation on the Po litical Economy of Black Hair........................................177 Human Hair Trade.........................................................................................................178 Black Braiders Fight......................................................................................................185 Conclusion..................................................................................................................... .......190 6 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS................................................................................228 Introduction................................................................................................................... ........228 Conceptual Framework for Cultu ral Domain of Black Hair................................................229 Conceptual Framework for Black Hair Texturocracy...................................................231 Comparing and Contrasting the Survey Re sults: Contradictions and Continuity.........231 Conclusion: I Am Not My Hair............................................................................................234 APPENDIX A VIEW OUR HAIR STORY ASSIGNMENT.......................................................................241 B EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WITH STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA COSMETOLOGY BOARD.................................................................................................243 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................244 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................267

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11 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 Nakia Brown................................................................................................................ ......43 1-2 La Belle Hottentot circa 1814. Permission Granted by Bibliothque Nationale, Paris.....44 1-3 Fat black welfare queens cartoon.......................................................................................45 1-4 Cross section of hair follicle............................................................................................. .46 1-5 Cross section of hair and scalp...........................................................................................47 1-6 Hot Combs. Photograph cour tesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.................................................48 1-7 Completed relaxer style. Photograph courtesy of Don Johnson and Sybil Dione Rosado......................................................................................................................... .......49 1-8 Hair being braided with synthetic hair. Photograph cour tesy of Sybil Dione Rosado......50 1-9 Cornrow hairstyle being crafted with s ynthetic hair. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado................................................................................................................... ..51 1-10 Weave hairstyle. Photograph c ourtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.........................................52 1-11 Twists hairstyle. Photograph c ourtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado..........................................53 1-12 Jheri curl photo. Sybil Dione Rosado at age 12 photograph courtesy of Don L. Johnson........................................................................................................................ ......54 1-13 Short natural hairstyle photo. Phot ograph courtesy of Dr. Sybil Johnson.........................55 1-14 Long dreadlocks hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.........................56 3-1 Research Design Flow Chart...........................................................................................116 3-2 Researcher Sybil Dione Rosado and her mother Dr. Sybil Johnson of real hair Photograph courtesy of Dr. Irma McClaurin...................................................................117 3-3 Researcher Sybil Dione Rosado giving buena presencia (good appearance) with wig covering dreadlocks photograph c ourtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado..................................118 3-4 Business card created to r ecruit research participants.....................................................119 4-1 Washing that Good Hair -Craig and Nicole Rosado. P hotograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...................................................................................................................147

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12 4-2 Nashini Khan with good hair. Photo c ourtesy of Ryan Santoo and Sybil Dione Rosado......................................................................................................................... .....148 4-3 Aunt Betty Beaver with Professional ha ir circa 1960. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...................................................................................................................149 4-4 Grandmother Sybil Barnes with professi onal hair circa 1970. Phot ograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.........................................................................................................150 4-5 Radical Lesbian hair Sybil Dione Rosado1992. Photograph courtesy of Don L. Johnson........................................................................................................................ ....151 4-6 Sybil Dione Rosado with professional hair circa 1994. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.........................................................................................................152 4-7 Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photo courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado......153 4-8 Bronner Brothers Hair Show Red Qu ick Weave Feb 20, 2004 Courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...................................................................................................................154 4-9 Bingo Hair Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...................................................................................................................155 4-10 Hat weave Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...................................................................................................................156 4-11 Brandi Dunlap. Photograph c outesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...........................................157 4-12 Kourtney Humbert. Photograph courtesy of Samantha Crommer and Sybil Dione Rosado......................................................................................................................... .....158 4-13 Daphnie Turner. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado........................................ 159 5-1 Age by Geography...........................................................................................................192 5-2 Age by Income chart........................................................................................................193 5-3 Respondents Hairstyles...................................................................................................194 5-4 Respondent by Hairstyle Type.........................................................................................195 5-5 Hair=Pain Chart............................................................................................................ ...196 5-6 Ashley McCants. Photograph courtesy of Amber Smith and Sybil Dione Rosado.........197 5-7 Girls in beauty shop in Ghana, West Africa. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado......................................................................................................................... .....198

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13 5-8 Level of Agreement for definition of Good Hair. Agreement with definition of Good hair: Hair that is easy to comb because it is straight, silky and does not have tight curls.......................................................................................................................... ........199 5-9 Level of Agreement for definition of Nappy hair. Agreement with definition of Nappy hair: Hair that is diffi cult to comb because it is very curly and cotton like.........200 5-10 Proximity graph for attr activeness of hairstyles..............................................................201 5-11 Proximity graph for social acceptability of hairstyles.....................................................202 5-12 Proximity graph for question, Wha t is a Professional Hairstyle?................................203 5-13 Hair=Identity............................................................................................................. .......204 5-14 Least Ethnic Hairstyles................................................................................................... .205 5-15 Zena Solomon. Photograph cour tesy of Sybil Dione Rosado......................................... 206 5-16 Julia Williams. Photograph courtesy of Marquise Jackson and Sybil Dione Rosado.....207 5-17 Photo 1 from online experiment......................................................................................208 5-18 Photo 2 from online experiment......................................................................................209 5-19 Photo 3 from online experiment......................................................................................210 5-20 Photo 4 from online experiment......................................................................................211 5-21 Photo 5 from online experiment......................................................................................212 5-22 Photo 6 from online experiment......................................................................................213 5-23 Photo 7 from online experiment......................................................................................214 5-24 Photo 8 from online experiment. 5-25 Photo 9 from online experiment......................................................................................216 5-26 Photo 10 from online experiment....................................................................................217 5-27 Photo 11 from online experiment....................................................................................218 5-28 Photo 12 from online experiment....................................................................................219 5-29 Experiment Respondent Age...........................................................................................220 5-30 Sign adorning Kalyana Katta, the four story building where hair tonsuring is conducted...................................................................................................................... ...221

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14 5-31 Sign directing devotees to tonsure line in side temple grounds outside Kalyana Katta...222 5-32 Tonsuring outside of the temple......................................................................................222 5-33 Hair being swept together for donation...........................................................................223 5-34 Post-tonsure photo of a small child..................................................................................223 5-35 Hat vendors outside of Kalyana Katta ............................................................................224 5-36 Main headquarters of Raj Impex......................................................................................224 5-37 Women sorting hair in Raj Impex factory.......................................................................225 5-38 Different textures of ha ir at Raj Impex, with long remy hair in the middle....................225 5-39 Hair being raked and tided o ff for sale at Raj Impex India.............................................226 5-40 Human hair ready for packag ing and export at Raj Impex..............................................226 5-41 Synthetic hair for sale in Accr a market in Ghana, West Africa.......................................227 6-1 The many faces of Sili Recio collage. Photographs courtesy of Sili Recio.....................238 6-2 Conceptual Framework for Black hair domain................................................................239 6-3 Conceptual framework for Black hair texturocracy.........................................................240

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15 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy NAPPY HAIR IN THE DIASPORA: EXPLORI NG THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF HAIR AMONG WOMEN OF AFRICAN DESECENT By Sybil Dione Rosado May 2007 Chair: Irma McClaurin Co chair: marilyn m. thomas-houston Major: Anthropology The purpose of this study is to investigate wh ether hair texture and hairstyle choice have symbolic meanings among women of African descent. Hair is a personal yet public pronouncement about identity. This work is an e ffort to understand how group identity is formed and maintained through everyday expe riences in the African Diaspora. This dissertation addresses two key questions: Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent associate with their hair texture and hairstyle choice? If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among women of African descent? To answer these questions, data collection involved participant observation, interviews, pile sorts, free lists, electronic surveys, digi tal storytelling techniques, ethnographic film and photography, and an online experiment. These da ta-collection methods provided for a deeper understanding of the underlying sym bolic and not simply the sta ted meaning attributed to different hair textures and st yles by African-descended women. Asking how hair textures and styles serve to help African-descended women carve out unique racial, gendered, social, and economic identitie s is critical to our u nderstanding of what it

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16 means to be a woman of African descent. T hus, any attempts at understanding the lived experiences of Black women will ultimately help us in defining the parameters of the African Diaspora. The data from this research reveal that ha ir is a cultural domain for women of African descent. Additionally, within this cultural domain hair texture is utilized as a way to assess an individuals racial status. So hair texture is used to race or de-race individuals symbolically. I found that hairstyles also transmit tacit messages about sexual orientation, gender, social status, religion and politics. Women of African descent use hair to symbolize their social, cultural, political, and ethnic identities. Fo r this group of women the material culture of hair serves as a way to extend their personal lives into the public.

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17 CHAPTER 1 REPOSSESSING THE BLACK FEMALE BO DY: IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION AND APPEARANCE IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA Everything I know about Ameri can history I learned from l ooking at Black peoples hair. Its the perfect metaphor for the African expe riment: the price of th e ticket, the toll of slavery and the costs of rema ining. Its all in the hair. Lisa Jones, author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. Introduction The introduction to this dissertation outlin es the purpose of the study; describes the research problem, offers a rationale for the re search, and defines the research objectives. Two specific research questions are presented for investigation. The introduction also discusses the significance of the study, and de fines its key concepts. The fi nal section of the introduction provides an overview of the dissertation ch apters and summarizes this introduction. Purpose of Study The main purpose of this study is to e xplore and document the symbolic meaning associated with hair textures and styles among women of African descent in the United States. Evidence of these symbolic meanings is disbur sed throughout the dissertation in the form of excerpts from digital hair storie s completed by some of my resear ch participants (see Figure 1-1 Nakia Baker and the description of how the phot o displays meaning written by Ryan Santoo). These photographs and the explanatory essays that sometimes accompany them provide the reader with a snapshot of the beliefs held by my research participants. This work investigates whether or not a shared cultural domain exists about hair among women of African descent in America. Cultural domains are systems of belief shared by groups and they can be identified through the elicitation of lists of key terms, core ideas, actions or other components (Bernard 1998; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003; Weller and Ro mney 1988; Weller 1998). The main idea behind cultural domains is that culture groups ha ve shared beliefs or perceptions that are not

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18 based on individual preferences. Implicit in this theory is not notion that group beliefs can be ascertained because a universal right answer exists for these beliefs (Bernard 1998; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003; Weller and Romney 1988; We ller 1998). My work focuses on the body and more specifically hair as an identity marker and a possible cultural domain. This work is also concerned with unders tanding how culture groups are formed via individual and group identity, the criteria and bo undaries utilized in their formation and how we can know this. The specific culture group I am focusing on is women of African descent in America. Despite the fact that a minor number of my participants were located outside of this geographical space, I allowed them to participat e based on their perception of themselves as valid members of the group I calle d, women of African descent. For me questions about culture groups and identity are some of the most importa nt questions ethnographers can ask in the early 21st century (Handwerker 2001). In my research I am attempting to document the personalized channels within global markets that African -descended women utilize to redefine or symbolically reinvent their lives through the cultu ral domain of hair. Like Ronald Walters (1993) who used both the real and imag ined linkages between Africa and its Diaspora as his units of analysis, I use hair as my unit of analysis while investigating local and gl obal identity formation. The Black body remains a central issue in the debate about Black identity because the body is still related to how we de fine group membership and bounda ries (Zack 1995). I intend to focus on how this gendered identity is performe d and witnessed by women of African descent in America. Understanding how identity is performed am ong African-descended women in America may assist scholars in expanding the notion of a shared comm unity in the African Diaspora. Ultimately, I believe that the key to un derstanding identity cons truction in the African

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19 Diaspora is grounded in creating and accepting in clusive definitions and honoring divergent experiences. The Problem While numerous books and research projects ha ve investigated the importance of skin color among people of African descent, most researchers have not been interested in investigating the profound meaning at tributed to hairstyles and te xture. This material culture called hair is perceived as a si gnifier of a Black womans sexual ity, racial pride, professional status, social standing, and gene tic origin. Despite its enormous importance the meaning of hairstyles and textures in the African Ameri can community remains an under-researched area. Skin color has been the primary research focus because historically, in the African American community, there exists a major divide over the issues of skin color and hair texture that has created a continuing legacy of separatism, divisiveness, a nd sheer disdain (Russell, et al. 1998). This division often star ts in childhood, as documented by Sonja Lanehart in her book, Sister Speak (2002). Laneharts narrative of one African American wo mans experiences reveals negative encounters with skin colo r and hair texture biases as early as the sixth grade. The woman recounts her memories of being recognized as the dark skinned girl who was only picked to be a majorette because she had long hair. Sh e believed she was denied the position of head majorette because of her dark skin. This intr a-racial skin color prejudice, also known as colorism or pigmentocracy,1 has functioned to divide th e African American community 1 As Robin notes, the connections between power, privilege and ethnic identification are so pervasive that in 1980, French social anthropologist Danielle Demelas, coined the term pigmentocracy to describe this intricate web of racially coded social relations (1999:13). This legacy began with the racist ideology developed during slavery which consisted of a binary system between whiteness and its alleged opposite blackness, and deemed the black slaves inferior to their white masters in culture and intellig ence, in physical appearance and skin color (Williams 2000:17). In the Caribbean pigmentocr acy, brown-skinned mulattoes (a closer approximation of the unchallenged white aesthetic idea) occupied a position above black-skinned Negroes, but below whites. The mulatto woman was perceived as, and perceived herself to be, more beautiful than the black woman, and she was more beautiful than the

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20 throughout its institutions, includ ing sororities, churches and colleges and universities (Lake 2003). Some elitist African American social orga nizations even devised entrance exams to their groups that were known as paper bag and comb test (Lake 2003; Russell, et al. 1998). These tests were designed to measure skin color for lightness and hair texture for straightness. Research reveals that experiences like these permeate th e consciousness of women of African descent (Neal and Wilson 1989). Despite the f act that skin color may be us ed metonymically to speak to issues concerning overall phenotype typically researchers have not singled out hair from these physical characteristics as a point of interest. Unfortunately, similar attitudes stretch beyond the Americas into Asia, India, and the South Pacific (Gailey 1994). Roksana Badruddoja Ra hman of Rutgers has shown in her research that South Asians aggressively seek marriage partners with lighter skinned women (Rahman 2004). Furthermore, a large portion of the Asian cosmetics industry is dedicated to skin lighteners that promise to make users fair and lovely (Ass isi 2004; Olivelle 1998; Rahman 2004). The clear implication of these advertisements is that you cannot be both dark and lovely. Similar prejudices are evident in Brazil where da rk skin is associated with criminality and an increased potential for becoming the vi ctim of violence (Mitchell and Wood 1999). Furthermore, even though Latin Americans typically assert the absence of color based racism in their culture, they adhere to a status quo where Whiteness is at the pinnacle of beauty and Blackness occupies the base (Sanchez, et al. 1996; Twine-Winddance 1998) Understanding that it is generally accepted that races are social constructions, cate gorical identifications based on a discourse about physical appearance or ance stry(Wade 1993: 3), and that race operates differently in different contexts (Clarke a nd Thomas 2006: 2), I consciously attempt to black woman, and she was more acceptabl e to the dominant white ruling class (Williams 2000:17). Colorism is also a term used by sociologist Bertice Berry to describe Black-on-Black discrimination (1988).

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21 operationalze the notion of Blackness. Following Whitten and Torres in my research I begin to define the terms Whiteness and Blackness as follows: The term black according to Webster, is an adjec tive derived from Latin constructs meaning, in a literal sense, sooted, smoke bl ack from flame. Its first meaning in the twentieth century is opposite to white. . .The concept of blackness, . reflects again and again on the ironies of its origins . .the dialectic between the darkening influences of white domination in the African diaspora and th e enlightened cultural, social and economic creativity produces and reproduced in the eter nal fires of black rebellion (Whitten and Torres 1998: 3). When I invoke the term Blackness, I evoke no tions of racialized geographies of the imagination and instead of capitulating to the illusion of Blackness bein g linked to a physical location I refer to locations wher e the notion of Blackness has been constructed and reformulated in social spaces on a global level (Brown 2006: 73). In these geographies of the imagination racial formation is heterogeneous and proce ssual bounded by local experiences . rooted within historical and contemporary political economies (Clarke and Thomas 2006: 27). Blackness and conversely, Whiteness are poly-sysete mic categories that I argue should refer to the complex system of racial classification thro ugh which structures of domination are created, reproduced, and experienced. The concept of Bl ackness denotes an association with Black culture, an African political, cult ural, and personal identity that is rooted in colonial and postcolonial experiences that pos ition Whiteness as the pinnacl e with Blackness at the base (Hord, 1995) This pyramid system of racial hierarchy resu lts in the marginalization of darker colored skin on a global level (Allahar 1993). For exampl e, in Latin America negative references to Black physiognomy are so prevalent that it is often thought of as a joke (Sanchez, et al. 1996). Similarly, in Nicaragua the solapado manner (racist behavior) is so commonplace that Africandescended people rationalize taunts about their hair te xture, perceived sexual prowess, and physical abilities as forms of merri ment (Sanchez, et al. 1996).

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22 Often employers demand a buena presencia (good appearance) for workers to gain employment and although this phrase translates literally into a good appearance, it actually means White skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. A re sponse to this overt racism is evidenced by an anti-racism campaign in Panama that prompted a book entitled No Me Pidas Una Foto which translates, Dont ask me for a photo (Barro w 2006). These negative encounters and economic consequences reinforce the desire of some African-descended people to alter the physical appearance of their ch ildren by marrying Whites (Assisi 2004; Hertel and Hughes 1990; Udry 1971), changing their own skin complexion with skin lighteners, ble aching peels and other cosmetics (Adebajo 2002; Giudice and Yves 2002; Goering 1971; Neal and Wilson 1989), and more immediately through cosmetic surgery (G ilman 2001). These global realities inluenced my decision to allow participants who would not tr aditionally be defined as women of African descent, such as Melanesians and Africans in America, to participate in the research. I submit that alongside this well documented system of pigmen tocracy there also exists a texturocracy or social hierar chical system largely based on ha ir texture and hairstyle embraced by every ethnic or racial, gendered, and socio economic group ever exposed to any form of colonialism. In this texturocracy, hair described as fine and straight is perceived as more valuable than hair that is described as coarse and curly. Th erefore, despite the fact that skin color remains an extremely important issue among African-descende d people, hair is the starting point for my scholarly research. Research Questions The research for this dissertation has b een guided by two anthropological questions: Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent asso ciate with their hair texture and hairstyle choice? If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belie f domain among women of African descent?

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23 I have chosen to answer these questions by conducting four levels of inquiry. First, I describe and analyze symbolic act s regarding Black hair gleaned from women of African descent in America. Second, I investigat e and evaluate the importance of the symbolic acts. Third, I elicit the meanings informants attribute to these acts and fourth, I create a conceptual framework that relates how these acts function among women of African des cent (Firth 1973a). Specifically, I investigate eight Blac k hairstyles, identified by my re search participants as salient to women of African descent in America. The styles that serve as the entr y point for my analysis are called relaxers or perms, br aids, dreadlocks, twists, jheri cu rls, weaves, micro braids, and afros or naturals. Justification of Study Understanding the contested space the Black bod y occupies is critical for any serious analysis of identity construc tion in the African Diaspora. Je mima Pierre echoes my concern when she states, we must devote more careful a ttention to the structures processes, contexts, and outcomes of identity formation in the African Diaspora (Pierr e 2002). In order to deconstruct general concepts of identity, research ers must be willing to analyze the symbols that craft the current perceptions of racial identities. I find the wo rk of feminist anthropologists and philosophers relevant to this effort. Specifically, I rely on Judith Butlers (1993; 1990) description of performativity as a way to understand the processural nature of identity formation where seemingly unrelated ideas can be brought together to form an open ended fluid system of meaning. Furthermore, Natasha Pravaz says, These ideas are central to understanding the ma terialization of sex or race in the body as a regulatory practice whose efficacy is not grounded in biological truth but in the repetition of social rules based on the im pulse to approximate and embody normative ideals (Pravaz 2003:122).

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24 In this age of globalization where the worl d has become an interrelated nexus of transnational global fields, concepts of identity are in constant flux and may change with the sociocultural landscape (Harrison 1998:609). This concern with the ever changing nature of identity is the same issue Dubois char acterized as the problem of the 20th century (1903:16). What is this color line and how does it manifest itself in the experiences of African American women as they formulate their personal and national identities. Like critical race theorist Derrick Bell (1992) I believe that the vestiges of race and racism cannot be cast off by simply ignoring the concepts imbedded in these ideas. Race is st ill linked to identity and it remains a way of knowing and organizing the social world (Winant 1994:xiii). Bu t, even though we continue to use race as a marker there is no shared theore tical, methodological, or po litical consensus about how to interpret and explain th e social realties that constitu te race (Harrison 1999:610). So my work attempts to explain one of the social reali ties that help construct racial identity for women of African descent. I believe that analyzing womens beliefs and experi ences with hair will enable us to better understand the importance of the phenomenon as it relates to the production of identity among African-descended women. This is important because, anthropology, as I see it, asks that we understand the dynamics of identity and of soci al relations in contextually appropriate ways (Pravaz 2003:136). Understa nding the evolution of identity construction among African-descended women will be limited if researchers fail to categorize the structures, processes, contexts, and outcomes that become the performances of identity in the African Diaspora. Researching and documenting these structures may help to demonstrate their usefulness in the formation of a spec ific cultural doma in about hair. Although I do not agree with most of hi s sociopolitical pers pectives in his book, Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority (2003), John McWhorter asks some

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25 crucial questions about this notion of identity construction and Blackness. For example, Who is authentically Black and who is empowered to determine this reality? These questions are echoed by Debora Dickerson (2004), in her book The End of Blackness Looking at these works prompted me to ask a multitude of questions about the construction of Black identity. For example, following the concept of Blackness pop ularized by hip hop culture prompts me to ask, Does speaking Black English, having multiple babie s daddies, or bad credit make me Black? Do I need to dodge bullets in South-Central L.A. or participate in Jack and Jill and the Golden Sable debutante Ball in order to be authentical ly Black? How does one, "keep it real as the rappers implore us to do? What are authenti c Black politics? Ho w exactly do I earn and maintain my Blackness, and more importantly, who decides when I am there? The same sentiment is echoed in Martin Favors book, Authentic Blackness (1999), when he asks whether or not race, class or culture, s hould control how intelle ctual work is categorized. Favor discusses out how the concept of Blackness is problematic b ecause if we attempt to base it on a shared history then Blacks from alternate historical viewpoints are excluded and if we tried to link it to genetics then we are giving credence to the no tions of difference. These same questions are applicable when we attempt to conceptualize identity in the African Diaspora. However, the resolution of these questions is less important than what has been called, in the Foucauldian sense of the term, the discourse of Diaspor an identity (Favor 1999) This discourse is important because historically we have b een unwilling to challenge popular notions of Blackness. However I assert that Diasporan scholars must unabashed ly engage in this discourse if we are to forge any sense of community th at extends across politic s, geography, class, and gender.

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26 Grappling with questions about identity in th e African Diaspora, I re alized that gender influences this construction a nd that the Black female body is a valid and necessary site for discourse analysis about what has been called a Diasporan id entity (Favor 1999). Following Gilroy who states that, gender is the modality in which race is lived, I turned my attention to studying the ritualized social forms produced by women of African descent (Gilroy 1991). This research decision was heightened by my reflex ive analysis of what is important to me as a woman of African descent and I was able to identify hair as a sali ent issue in the performance of identity for African-descended women. I began to examine the symbolic meaning Africandescended women attribute to hair and hairstyle choice. In spite of my desire to avoi d reifying the stereotypes racist ideology has historically relied upon by calling upon an element of racial classifica tion as a unifying fact or, I cannot disregard the historical and social significance of the id ea of race. This social concept in the United States with similar permutations globally is often based on perceived phe notype, and historically and up to the present is signifi cant in the construction of gr oup boundaries. I assert that the biological similarity of hair among African-desce nded women acts as a unifying factor for this group across geographical boundaries. For example, b ecause of her light skin and tightly coiled hair, Katya Azoulay, a Jewish wo man of African descent, is c onstantly bombarded with the questions like, What are you? and challenged by statements like, Youre not Jewish, because of her skin color and hair texture (Azo ulay 1997). Azoulays experience is a poignant example of the fact that racial classification and group boundaries are socially constructed ideas that remain dominant factors in what are perceived as markers for Blackness. I focus on women of African descent because hair is so central to the construction of the Black females racial or cultu ral identity, her sexuality, gend er roles and dynamics, and her

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27 access to or exclusion from various types of pow er, including aesthetic, cultural, economic, and political. But in order to initiate a real discussi on about hair in contempor ary culture and its role in identity construction and re sistance among African-descended women, I must historicize the conceptualization of the Black body a nd ultimately, the Black female body. Significance of Study Historicizing Blackness One of the key elements required to understa nd the relevance of ha ir as a performative identity marker among African-descended women is the history of the powerful imagery and beliefs related to Blackness and the female body. The historical development of the concept of Blackness in the Americas is relevant to the Diaspora because the spread of ideas about the significance of skin color have not been c onstrained by geography. White racism and the negative stereotypes it created to subordinate Blac k bodies may be a historically recent invention but notions of color based inferiority have b een adopted by other cultu res and societies on a worldwide basis (Smedley 1998). Linking Color to Race The real power behind color prejudice comes fr om its association with notions of group membership and race. Racializatio n of skin color, physical featur es, and hair texture served as a powerful way to distort the image of the Bl ack body. Moreover, it became the unifying force upon which the concept of Whiteness could be launched. Interestingly, one of the reasons it was imperative to create a negative image of the Bl ack body was because slaveholders, who in some contexts were outnumbered by the people they en slaved, needed the a llegiance of poor White non-slaveholders in order to maintain physical control of Blacks. The notion of a shared Whiteness became a way to grant poor people an elevated social status that was based solely upon their physical appearances (Hartigan 1997). Whiteness vi sibly unified the population and

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28 allowed them to control large numbers of enslaved people (Davila 2003; Hartigan 1997; Stanfield 2006). The ideology of Whiteness was a dvanced by constant attempts to outline the parameters of Blackness (Smedley 1998). One exampl e of this effort can be found in the first American edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1798). Under the entry "Negro" it reads: Round cheeks, high cheek-bones, a forehead some what elevated, a short, broad, flat nose, thick lips, small ears, ugliness, and irregula rity of shape, characterize their external appearance. The Negro women have their loin s greatly depressed, and very large buttocks, which give them the shape of a saddle. Vices the most notorious seem to be the portion of this unhappy race: idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery, nastiness and intemper ance . strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful example of the co rruption of man when left to himself (Eze 1997:94). This racial definition shows how the dom inant view of the Black body connects the physicality of Blackness with nega tive morals and character tr aits (Conrad 1987). By defining the Black body as naturally ugly, idle, and pr ofane, the White body is implicitly exalted as naturally beautiful, industrio us, and sacred. Negative images of the Black body became ingrained in landscape of the dominant ideo logy because Whiteness was defined as an oppositional reality to Blackness (Foutz 1999). A ke y element in this belief system was that Europeans, who had "straight hair and noses" were naturally beautiful and therefore both physically and spiritually superior, while curly hair and broad noses we re ugly indications of barbarism (Foutz 1999). Group identity or race was inscribed on the individual bodies of enslaved Africans. Skin color, and hair textur e became accepted as outward symbols of race and expressions of an internal pathology (Ferguson 1916). The concept of race globally linked the Black body to ideas about high levels of sexuality, depravity, laziness, and violence that needed to be controlled (Baker 1 998; Hayes 2002; Roberts 1994).

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29 Black Female Bodies Interestingly, some of the first exposure the pub lic had to the scientific construction of race via anthropology was during the 1893 and 1904 Wo rld Fairs (Baker 1998). These events introduced the general public in America to the "scientific evidence" of the inferiority of the Black body and the superiority of the White body (Baker 1998). Legal, anthropological, economic, religious, and social forces worked in unison to craft negativ e images of the Black racial body (Collins 1990). Focusing on the body as the locus of race helped to cement ideas about racial inferiority being wr itten into the very text of the Black female body (Gates 1986). The Black female body became the physical manifestation of all the negative character traits associated with the race. In th is circular reasoning the body became evidence of the traits and the traits were manifested in the perceived ugliness of the body (Gilliam 1997; Gilliam 2001; Gilman 2001; McClaurin 2001; Prav az 2003). Dark skin and kinky hair themselves became representations of primitiveness and immorality. This was in direct opposition to White skin and blonde hair which became the physical manifestati on of civility, chastity, and beauty. Race and the condition of servitude were symbolically inscribed on the phys ical body of the Black female (Drake 1987; Fannon 1967; Memmi 1965; Vizenor 1965). The image of the Black female body as an example of savage sexuality and racial inferiority was confirmed by the lurid exhibition of the genitalia of Sarah Baartman, who is better known as the "hottentot venus" (Maseko 1998; Sharpley-Whiting 1999). Europeans were able to visually palpate the "otherness" of the Black female body with the exhibition of Baartman's pronounced buttocks, a physical condition known as steatopygia2, and her rumored 2Classified as an "abnormal" protuberance of buttocks, steatopygia, a physical condition first anatomized by the physicians who dissected the Hottentot Venus and other African women, appears in the medical, physiological, and anthropological literature of the nineteenth century, as well as in depictions in plastic arts and in literary works of women exoticized by their race, their profession (prostitu tes, goddesses, harem inmates), their class (laundresses,

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30 pendent labia minora3 (Baker 1974; Sharpley-Whiting 1999). Sarah Baartman's body served as the foundation of European ideas about Black female sexuality a nd her exhibition became one of the initial ethnographic studies of the Black female body (Sharpley-Whiting 1999: see Figure 1-2 La Belle Hottentot). In the 20th and 21st centuries the development and spr ead of mass media has helped to further objectify and "other" the Bl ack female body. Magazines like the National Geographic made images of nude Black females readily availa ble to the masses and held their bodies out for public review as valid anthropological spec imens (Willis and Williams 2002). The Internet today provides groups the opportunity to display various types of images regarding the Black female body. These images range from positive, such as the photos found in the online forum called www.nappturality.com to cartoons that are absurdly ster eotypical and racist (see Figure 13). In attempting to re-appropriate our images, Black women face an e xploitive paradox where we are forced to choose between being hyper-visible and sexual or invisi ble and asexual. It should be clear now why the construction of th e Black female body is a central issue when attempting to understand the link between the hist ory of racism and identity construction in the African Diaspora. For people of African descent, the geography of the body serves as a powerful and visible symbol of racist id eology. Only by dissecting this sy mbolic landscape can we hope to cabaret dancers). Its mental parallel, nymphomania, invented by Freud to diagnose the sexually insatiable and thus monstrous female appetite, depends on an etymological link to the labia minora, the nymphae, presumably immensely elongated among certain Afri can peoples, for which st eatopygia stands as a displacement (Vlasopolos 2000: 131). 3 The labia minora, sometimes referred to as the inner lips of the vagina, are folds of skin that extend downward from the female clitoris that are surrounded by the labia majora. The famous "Hottentot apron" is a hypertrophy, or overdevelopment, of the labia minora, or nymphae. The apron was one of the most widely discussed riddles of female sexuality in the nineteenth century. However, its ex istence, its intriguing origins, and its uses had been greatly debated in various travelogues of the eighteenth century (Sharpley-Whiting 1999: 27).

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31 regain control of the body that serves to define our character, our souls, and our morality. Yet, given the complex history surrounding the negative images associated with the Black female image, repossessing this symbolic landscape will not be a simple task. In part this task will be difficult because certain images are ingrained in the individual psyches of women of African descent. For Black women these images speak to us and through us as we police each others presentations of self (Goffman 1959). Recognizing this internal level of control among African-descended women prompted me to focus on hair as a key element in the construction of Black female identity. Performing Identity in the Diaspora Public, political, and extremely personal fo r women of African descent, it only makes sense that hair and hairstyles would eventually be interpreted as a prim e domain for reproducing and transforming social meaning. Hair is a multile vel, multi-vocal symbol that is imbued with a plethora of ideas about sexuality (Cooper 1971; Mageo 1994), socioeco nomic status (Banks 1997; Bonner 1994; Harris and Johnson 2001; Herron and Cepeda 1997; Zollar and Herron 2001), political beliefs (Rooks 2001), and even ethnic identity (Brown 1994). Despite the nomenclature used, concepts of good hair and bad hair still exist in Africa and the African Diaspora (Banks 1997; Bennett and Dickerson 2001; Bonner 1994; Harris and Johnson 2001; Herron and Cepeda 1997; Zollar and Herron 2001). These concepts prompted me to ask, What is good hair? How does one assess the quality of another individuals hair and how does having what is classified as good ha ir influence your life? Moreover, what is bad hair and how are these values transmitted culturally? Is bad hair resistance hair while good hair is compliant? I believe that the symbolism associated with b ad or nappy hair goes beyond a mere indication of type of hair texture. An analysis of st atements made by informants in my preliminary research, such as, boy, he got some good hair, I be t he will make some pretty babies reveals

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32 that hair texture also implies perceived biological quality [pers onal communication with author, December 10, 2004). In the African-American co mmunity the word nappy itself, which is often used to characterize bad hair, is almost as offensive as a racial slur. For example in New York City a White teacher read a book entitled Nappy Hair (Herron and Cepeda 1997) to her class and was suspended from work after being bombarded with threats from angry Black parents. Despite the fact that the childrens book was written by a Black woman and espoused a message of self love for th e natural diversity of Black hair textures, many people rejected the positive image espoused by the book because of the ne gative symbolism they associated with the word nappy. By investiga ting the meaning of hair texture, my research focuses on the lived experiences surrounding good and nappy ha ir. Or even more recently when Don Imus, one of the countrys most popular radio talk show hosts described the Rutgers womens baskeball team as nappy headed ho s the media began questioning whether his comments could bring down a multimillion-dolla r media business (Lieberman, et al. 2007). However his producer, Bernard McGuirk, made si milar comments about the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) womens bask etball final being a competition between the Jigaboos vs. the Wannabees and this slur bare ly raised an eyebrow (Carr 2007). McGuirk did not use the word nappy so his comments did not trigger the same reaction. The word nappy is powerful because of its symbolic meaning among African-descended women. Hair really matters to women of African descent and this is why it serves as a vali d and significant area of inquiry (Banks 2000). Agency, Perception, and Hair Any discussion of the Black body requires a focu s on its materiality. As a society we are drawn to imagery composed of skin, nails, lips, hair, and body forms; however, this is never the entire enunciation of the Black body because it is inextricably connected to historical

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33 representation and both individu al and societal perception an d interpretation (Bennett and Dickerson 2001). These perceptions and inte rpretations vary immensely depending on the contexts within which they are experienced. Following Ian Hodder, who writes that material culture is used by individuals as a medium for communication, conformity and identity expression I assert that, an i ndividual's guise may be transient and temporary, depending on context (Hodder 1982:27). So although some theorist s assert that the use of straight hair is evidence of self hatred, I believe that hairstyl e choices may serve different functions depending on the context they are displayed within. For th e Black female, however, in stitutionalized racism and chattel slavery is the prism through which her body has been experienced and interpreted. This ideology creates a permanent and fixed im pression of her in the minds of her peers and oppressors. Historically, in the United States, the Black female body b ecame chattel for breeding and an elaborate racial ideology was developed that made her the quintessential dichotomy. She became simultaneously hyper-visible and invisi ble, masculine and womanly, repugnant and desirable, but she always remained identifiable th rough her hair texture, sk in, and facial features (Bennett and Dickerson 2001; Gillia m 1997). Despite the fact that ra ce is not a biological reality, forensic anthropologists are still using hair as a component for dete rmining the race of unknown subjects (Smay and Armelagos 2000). Linki ng race to hair is not a new concept among anthropologists and even Firth noted that physical anthropologists ha ve argued that, hair [texture] is apparently a true racial character in man, hereditary and unaffected by environment" (Firth 1973a:263). According to the work of authors like Pravaz, Williams, Smedley and Loren, identifiable bodily features such as hair texture and sk in color were placed on a racial continuum by

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34 colonizers who graded individuals by their percentage of Whiteness (Pravaz 2003; Smedley 1998; Williams 2000). Different treatment was a fforded to people based on their determined percentage of Whiteness and thus perceived raci al differences served as a basis for status differences (Loren 2001; Pravaz 2003). From slav ery up to the present 21 st century the Black female body has been unable to discard the negati ve imagery assigned to it. The genesis of the concepts regarding good hair and bad can be found in a histor y of racial classification and social hierarchy. It is within this crucible of 500 years of Wh ite supremacy and racial oppression that the Black female body has been forged, stigmatized and devalued, thereby creating a fracture in the essence of her pe rsonal identity and public perception. I would suggest that some aspects of Black womens beautification rituals became a form of agency and through these rituals Black womens hair be came a location for symbolic action and interaction. Functional Definitions of Key Hairstyle Terms Basic Hair Biology This ethnography documents the symbolic meanings attributed to hair and hairstyle choice among women of African descent. In order to effectively discuss the symbolic meanings associated with hairstyles and hair texture I must begin by expl aining the biological reality of hair. This is important because a firm understandi ng of what hair is phys ically helps explicate what it does symbolically. All hair begins as slender threadlike outgrowt h of keratin, or dead protein that protrudes from the skin. This keratin has three main morphological areas, the cuticle or translucent scale like outer layer of the hair shaft, the cortex whic h can be conceptualized as the meat of the hair shaft, and the medulla which is the central core of the hair shaft (B rannon 2006; Deedrick and Koch 2004; Paus and Cotsarelis 1999: see Figures 1-4 and 1-5).

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35 Despite the fact that the c oncept of race does not account fo r human genetic variation, forensic anthropologists have used the morphological variations in ha ir to create typologies that are associated with the socially constructed categories called race (Deedrick 2000; Smay and Armelagos 2000). These variations are based on th e shape of the hair follicle which directly influences the shape of the hair shaft. In the past, anthropologists associated hair with the physical stereotypes we call r aces, the category Caucasian represented European origin, Ethiopian or Negroid were of African origin, and Mongoloid described pe ople of Asian origin (Deedrick 2000; Deedrick and Koch 2004; Mark s 1995: 54). According to Deedrick and Koch, in some instances the racial ch aracteristics exhibited are not cl early defined, indicating the hair may be of mixed-racial origin (2004). However, it is not clea r what these instances may be. Deedrick and Koch go on to note that studies on the morphology of hair by race reveal that Caucasian hair is oval to round shaped with even pigment and a medium size cuticle. Deedrick writes that it is this oval shape that gives the so called Caucasian hair a straight or mildly wavy appearance. For identification purposes round ha ir shafts with an auburn pigment and thick cuticle are sorted into the category of Mongoloi d or Asian hair (Deedri ck 2000). Deedrick notes that this shape of the hair cells makes it appear ve ry straight. Finally, Deedri ck explains that hair that has been categorized as Negroid or African a ppears to be primarily elliptical or flat shaped with dense pigmentation and a thin cuticle (D eedrick and Koch 2004; McClain 1998). This flat shape of the hair cells combined with naturally lower levels of scalp oil and larger amounts of sulfur gives African typed hair an extremely curly appearance. This texture of hair is susceptible to twisting or buckling, conditions that can create splits in the hair sh aft (Deedrick and Koch 2004). These factors work in unison to create the tightly twisted ha ir that is associated with

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36 people of African descent. This naturally formed hair texture is the root of my discussion about the meaning of hair among women of African descent. The curly hair texture associated with being of African descent can be manipulated into various styles, using assorted techniques that range from ch emical applications to manual contortions. My preliminary res earch and participant observation revealed eight major hairstyles that were salient to my research participants. So I focused my work on what the women identified as the most prominent styles among wo men of African descent. These hairstyles are called relaxers or perms, brai ds, weaves, twists, cornrows, jh eri curls, short naturals and dreadlocks. What follows is a basic discussion of the procedures used to create these styles. Black Hairstyles This section will provide a description of the chemical and manual processes women of African descent go through to achieve the eight styles mentioned in the previous section. An important component of my res earch is a detailed explanati on of how these hairstyles are created. For a detailed discussion of the historical significance related to these different styles see (Banks 2000; Byrd and Tharps 2 001; Johnson 2004; Johnson 1991; Tyler 1990). Chemical relaxers are worn by an estimat ed 75 percent of African-descended women (Quinn, et al. 2003; Russell, et al. 1992:91). Chemi cal relaxing is completed by the application of a cream or lotion mixture of sodium hydroxide guanidine hydroxide, or calcium hydroxide (Meadows 2001) to penetrate the co rtex of the hair shaft and break the cross bonds of the cortical layer (Babino, et al. 1995; Browne 1989; Flet cher 2000; Kinard 1997; McClain 1998; Meadows 2001; Quinn, et al. 2003). This process changes the molecular structure of the hair by chemically removing its tight curl pattern. Th e hair takes on the appearance of being straight. However, this process also weakens the hair shaft and over ti me results in breakage. Among women of African descent in the United States, this process is commonly called a perm (Babino, et al. 1995;

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37 Banks 2000; Browne 1989; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Cornwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Ebong 2001; Fletcher 2000; Harris and Johnson 2001; jones 1994; Kinard 1997; Qui nn, et al. 2003; Rankin and Korlewala 1993; Sieber, et al. 2000: see Figu re 1-7). This style is becoming even more popular as products like, Soft & Beautiful Just For Me Texture Softener by Alberto Culver, are marketed towards girls as young as five and their mothers as an alternative to hair pressing or relaxing. This product is called a no lye conditi oning relaxer and it pur ports to cause less breakage than simply combing natural hair. Th e product is replete with a Web Site geared towards young girls where they can become a pr oduct VIP member, play games, and compete to win a doll made in their own image (http://www.jfmvipclub.com/ ). Chemical relaxing is an extension of thermal styling methods such as flat ironing, hot combing, and curling (see Figure 1-6 Hot Combs). These thermal methods of hair straightening provide a similar hairstyle appearance, but they do not cause permanent cha nges in the chemical make up of the hair. In Africa, particularly among the Yoruba, cornrow braids were used to symbolize important cultural markers such as ethnicity, soci al status, religion, and ag e (Sieber, et al. 2000). It is possible to produce very ar tistic cornrow styles that range from simple lines to complex replicas of geometrical shapes Braiding has tradit ionally involved twisting three sections of hair in an overlapping motion until the end of the hair is reached. Individual braids may also be called plaits. Micro-braids are another popular braid style that is create d by adding synthetic or human hair to the three sections of the wearers hair thereby extending the le ngth and fullness of the style (see Figure 1-8). One of the drawbacks that wearers have with this style occurs when the braids are too tight which result s in hair loss from excessive tension on the hair follicles. Braiding also includes a process called cornrowi ng or canerowing (see Figure 1-9). This process is where hair is braided very close to the scalp. (Babino, et al. 1995; Banks 2000; Browne 1989;

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38 Byrd and Tharps 2001; Cornwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Ebong 2001; Fletcher 2000; Harris and Johnson 2001; jones 1994; Kinard 1997; Rankin a nd Korlewala 1993). Braids have grown into a popular style and have been donned by famous entert ainers such as Brandy and Alicia Keyes. Weaves are a set of hairsty ling practices that has severa l different modes of production. One way to create a weave involves relaxing th e hair and then placing several small cornrow braids in the middle and back of th e head. Then artificial hair that has been attached to a weft, or plastic strip, is sewn on to these cornrow braids with a needle and thread. The relaxed hair is then used to conceal the weft and the r eal and artificial hair is blended together to create the illusion of longer thicker hair. Another way to create a weave style involves using a special glue to attach small amounts of hair to sm all sections of hair at the base of the scalp (see Figure 1-10). These additions increase the volume and length of the hair. Yet another procedure for weaving involves covering the entire head with a type of stocking material and then applying the synthetic or human hair over the entire head. The hair can be glued to the stocking or sewn to the stocking but it creates a type of long term wig that is mu ch more difficult to remove than a traditional wig (Babino, et al. 1995; Banks 2000; Browne 1989; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Cornwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Ebong 2001; Fletcher 2000; Harris and Johnson 2001; jones 1994; Kinard 1997; Rankin and Korlewala 1993; Sieber, et al. 2000). Twists are another hairstyle th at has become popular. This st yle is created by twisting two sections of hair together until the end is reache d. This style can be achieved with or without the addition of extra human or synt hetic hair (see Figure 1-12). In the 1980s, a chemically based hairstyle was in troduced called a jheri curl. This hairstyle is produced by applying two differe nt chemical processes to the hair. The initial part of the process uses a chemical similar to a relaxer so that the molecular bonds in the natural curl pattern

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39 of the hair are relaxed. Then afte r the natural curls are loosened the hair is set on perm rods. A second chemical solution is applied to the hair while the perm rods are in place and this locks in a larger curl pattern that is dict ated by the size of the perm rods. This procedure is more involved than the previously described relaxer. In fact the application of two oppositional chemicals can be very damaging and drying to the hair and wear ers are required to frequently moisturize the hair with oil products (see Figure 112). This need to frequently apply oil to the hair diminished the popularity of this style, since it often left the hair wet and oily fo r hours after the products were applied (Armstrong, et al.; Babino, et al. 1995; Banks; Browne; Byrd and Tharps; Cornwell; Draelos; Ebong; Fletcher; Harris and J ohnson; Kinard; Rankin and Korlewala; Sieber, et al. 2000). Short naturals are a style created by cropping th e hair close to the scalp. The length of the hair can range from under an inch to several in ches in length. The primary characteristic that distinguishes this hairstyle is that it is usually de void of chemicals. This style has also been the predecessor of a style known as the Afro. The Afro is produced by combing the natural hair away from the scalp. The curl pattern in Black hair allows the hair to st and away from the scalp without dropping. This natural strength can be us ed to create a dome-like hairstyle that can be molded with light patting (Babino, et al. 1995; Banks 2000; Browne 1989; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Cornwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Hatton 1994). Dreadlocks, dreads, or locks, is a hairstyl e that is achieved by allowing the hair to intertwine and twist into its natural curl pattern. This process may take w eeks or even months to achieve depending on the tightness of the individuals curl pattern. In order to achieve this style wearers may avoid washing or combing the hair fo r several weeks or even months. This process causes the hair to become matted and once the dr eadlock is formed it cannot be combed out. In

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40 order to change the hairstyle th e wearer would be required to cu t the dreadlocks off. This process can occur naturally or it can be styled by twisting or palm rolling techniques (Flinker 1985; Johnson 1991; S.B.G. 1980). The term dreadlo cks was actually coined by the Rastafarian religious movement and the hairstyle was popular ized in the 1980s by rock star Bob Marley. However, the hairstyle has been worn by people in many different cultures prior to and since the advent of the religious movement (Banks 1997; Ebong 2001; Seiber 2000). For example, the Biblical figures Sampson and John the Baptist ar e reported to have worn dreadlocks (Mastalia and Pagano 1999). Furthermore, descriptions of the hairstyle can be found in the Veda scriptures of India and the style is worn by Sadhus (holy men) and Sadhvis (holy women) in India to this day (Mastalia and Pagano 1999). The style is worn by a diverse group of people across the globe including the Maasai, the Mau Mau, and New Gu ineans (Mastalia and Pagano 1999; Sieber, et al. 2000). I have taken the time to describe these eight Black hair forms so that my discussions about the symbolism associated w ith Black hairstyles can focus on what they signify and not the signs themselves. Summary and Conclusions In this chapter I lay the groundwork for understa nding all the key concepts and issues that will be further explored in the dissertation. I used chapter one to introduce the purpose of the study, discuss the problem, and present the resear ch questions. This is followed by a discussion of the rationale for selecting this topic and functional de scriptions of the ha irstyles identified by my participants as salient. This section includes a discussion of Blackness, the connection between color and race, the history of the Black female body, the biology of hair and finally the Black hairstyles identified to be sa lient by my research participants. In chapter two, I review the literature by starting with the psychoanalytical and anthropological discussions of hair as it relates to Whites. This general hair theory is important

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41 because it serves as the basis fo r many of the contemporary theori es about Black hair and also reveals how hair has been interpreted by social sc ientists. After reviewing the general literature on hair I examine the theories produced about Black hair and the Af rican Diaspora by Black psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. I extend my revi ew of the literature on hair theory to include the African Di aspora because it is important for me to situate my work within this conceptual area of study. This chronological revi ew of the literature se rves as a historical overview of Black hair culture. Chapter three describes my research design. In this section the methodology I used is presented and the specific methods utilized to ga ther the data for my study are reviewed. While discussing the settings in which my research to ok place I also reflect on the importance of my role as a native researcher and the impact th is had on my ability to implement my research strategy. This chapter also in cludes a descriptio n of my sampling techniques and sample demographics. Chapter four is where I begin discussing the da ta from my participant observation, such as interviews, and digital storyte lling exercises. The voices of African-descended women dominate this chapter with the articulation of hair stories and hair symbolism. Chapter five is a summary of the data obtai ned through a survey and an online experiment. This visual presentation of data gleaned from th e experiment is juxtaposed and verified against the numerical data that the respondents provided me with in the survey. This chapter also discusses the political economy of hair as it relates to the human ha ir trade and hair braiding as a profession. In chapter six, I flesh out the concept of ha ir as a cultural domain. It is here that I synthesize the information found in the first five ch apters, including my data analysis to create a

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42 conceptual framework for the cultural domain of hair. While exploring the parameters of the cultural domain of hair for African-descended women I conclude that this domain functions as an important component in the construction of cultura l and personal identity for African-descended women. In this final chapter I also discuss the limitations of my study, re evaluate my research goals, and identify opportunities for additional academic research.

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43 Figure 1-1 Nakia Brown. Photogr aph courtesy of Ryan Santoo and Sybil Dione Rosado. Nakia Brown says she wears dreadlocks as her c hoice of hairstyle because of pride. She claims to be a strong, inde pendent, proud Black female. With this in mind she has chosen her hairstyle to depict these values that have been instilled in her from her family. She prefers to wear dreadlocks a bove braids or other choices because she considers them the most distinctive of African-American hair culture. Which other races hair can form as beautiful or na tural locks as Black persons can? Nakia is from the South and has not remembered a time when she did not face some form of discrimination from the prejudiced majorit y. However, instead of wallowing in selfpity, she has struck back and is in co llege when many wrote her off before. Many people who previously knew her never though t that Nakia would make it as far as college. She hopes to further surpass their expectations by graduating and leading a successful professional and personal life. Nakia sees dreadlocks as the most fundamental African-American hairstyle and wishes it were more wide spread. Yes, you do tend to be stereotyped a lot quicker with dreadlocks than without them, but Nakia says it is a small price to pay for pe rsonal gratification. Her hair is symbolic also of her social position and culture. Nakia was chosen because a female with dreadlocks could not be neglected when addr essing an African-American hair survey. It is a significant part of the culture and recently has become much more popular amongst females. I am certain, like Nakia, they wear dreadlocks as symbols of their ethnic individuality and with a certain degree of pride. ---Ryan Santoo, Benedict College Student response to di gital storytelling assignment.

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44 Figure 1-2 La Belle Hottentot circa 1814. Permission Granted by Bi bliothque Nationale, Paris.

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45 Figure 1-3 Fat black welfare queens cartoon. [Reprinted with permission from Tom Metzger publisher of the Big Book of Racist Cartoon and The Insurgent website at www.resist.com ].

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46 Figure 1-4 Cross section of hair follicle. [Reprinted with perm ission of Douglas Deedrick 2000, Hair Fibers Crime and Evidence Part 1 Forensic Science Communications 2:3.].

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47 Figure 1-5 Cross section of hair and scalp. [Rep rinted with permission of Douglas Deedrick and Sandra Koch 2004, Microscopy of hair Part 1 Forensic Science Communications 6:1.].

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48 Figure 1-6 Hot Combs. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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49 Figure 1-7 Completed relaxer style. Photograph courtesy of Don Johnson and Sybil Dione Rosado.

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50 Figure 1-8 Hair being braided with synthetic hair. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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51 Figure 1-9 Cornrow hairstyle be ing crafted with synthetic hair Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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52 Figure 1-10 Weave hairstyle. Photog raph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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53 Figure 1-11 Twists hairstyle. Photog raph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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54 Figure 1-12 Jheri curl photo. Sybil Dione Rosado at age 12 phot ograph courtesy of Don L. Johnson.

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55 Figure 1-13 Short natural ha irstyle photo. Photograph courte sy of Dr. Sybil Johnson.

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56 Figure 1-14 Long dreadlocks hairstyle. P hotograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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57 CHAPTER 2 THEORIZING THE BODY AN D HAIR: A HISTORICAL LITERATURE REVIEW Ever since the Biblical Samson was brought down by Delilah, who cu t his seven locks, hair has been a fascinating and symbolic cultu ral entity (The New King James Version, Judg. 16. 20). However, this fascination has not been re stricted to one culture. The Masai of Kenya believed their chief would lose his power if his chin was shaved; some Native American tribes removed the scalps of their enemies in order to release their souls and cap ture their power; and strict Orthodox Jews still ma intain prohibitions against shaving (Cooper 1971). Hair has represented everything from virility to submi ssion and sexual restraint. As early as 1886 anthropologist, G.A. Wilken studied the relevanc e of hairdressing as it pertained to ritual mourning (Wilken 1886). Recent research on hair reve als that it is an extremely important factor in African American womens lives (Banks 2000). My research primarily focuses on the beliefs about hair held by women who identify themselves as being of African descent in th e American South. Obviously, the symbols have changed over time and vary from culture to cultur e, but hair remains an extremely salient topic for social scientists and in part icular anthropologists. I have cr afted this chapter to examine the socioeconomic and cultural construction of the body; review the psychoanalytical, and anthropological literature on hair symbolism; discuss the specialized role of hair among Africandescended women in America; provide the reader with what I call a Blac k hair historiography; and present a literature re view of the social science writings on Black hair. These activities were conducted in order to answer th e following research questions: Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent asso ciate with their hair texture and hairstyle choice? If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belie f domain among women of African descent?

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58 Socioeconomic and Cultural Construction of the Body Since hair is simply one small part of the body, I believe that any discussion of its anthropological significance must begin with the broader concept of how the body has been viewed by some anthropologists and sociologis ts. Discussing the body first will help me to contextualize the history and symbolic mean ing of hair among African American women. Moreover, this discussion is crafted to help the reader understand the ma gnitude of body politics and how hair can possibly serve as an extensi on of an individuals personality, sexuality, political inclination, or religion. Thus, to understa nd the symbolic meanings with which hair may have been imbued, it is helpful to star t with how the body has been symbolized. Anthropologist Mary Douglas (2003) theo rized that the body is an organ of communication that is used to actively create sym bols to help us maintain our societies. Douglas states that, the physical body is a microcosm of society (Douglas 2003: 76-77). My reading of Douglas work is that she envisions the human body as a symbol that fl uctuates with cultural change. As a culture becomes more restrictive, the way in which its members treat their bodies becomes more controlled. The parallel that D ouglas creates between so ciety and the body seems to be based on a combination of the sociol ogical theory of functionalism and social interactionism. The syllogism th at can be crafted from Douglas work is that the body is a microcosm of society, hair is a part of the body, and therefore ha ir is a microcosm of society. But, this may be a specious argument and in part the purpose of my res earch is to investigate whether or not there are shared meanings about hair that constitute a cultural domain. Douglass work remains useful to me because it give s an indication of how powerful the body and by extention hair have been viewed.

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59 Some philosophers and sociologists have also asserted that the body f unctions as a symbol (Goffman 1959), a source of power (Foucault 1979), and as a statement of identity (Synnott 1987). Reading these ideas, I find myself believin g that the body is a powerful location for the creation of identity and symbolizat ion. If our bodies all looked the same I am sure that we would create a new way to craft our individuality. However, we do not all look alike and we use our bodies to carve out individual identities from our societys populace. Our bodies mark us and we mark our bodies to indicate w ho we are, what we think, and how we feel as members of the society we exist within. Hewitt says, Mar king the body enculturates and differentiates an individual, and the precise mean ing of body modification is unique for each person and each society(Hewitt 1997:11). It is my contention that our pa rticular culture teac hes us how to control our bodies and thus harness our power as individual sy mbolizing beings. We are active participants in the creation of our identities as our cult ure shapes our perceptions of what these identities should entail. A good example of this relationship be tween identity production and cu ltural pressure is expressed by one of my research participants when she relate s this story about her pursuit of employment in the 1970s, The guy said Uhm you know you have to have a work visa and I said what do you mean I have to have a work visa? He said arent you foreign? I said no Im from Alabama! So at that point I started growing the perm out you k now, cause that meant that if he couldnt identify me for who I was, then maybe I wasnt really identifying me for who I was. [Ms. Donna Todd, Interview March 2005]. Donnas analysis of her own production of iden tity indicates that she was aware of the direct relationship between how she manipulated her bodily appearance and how society would judge her. Donna clearly provides an example of how we actively craft our identities in relation to societal pressure. Understanding this societ al pressure and control over the body is valuable

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60 because it serves as the locus of what Pierre Bourdieu terms symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1986; Bourdieu 1990). In the Logic of Practice, Pierre Bourdieu outlines the va lidity of symbolic capital as a strategy for enhancing one's econo mic prowess (Bourdieu 1990). He argues that symbolic capital operates as a form of credit based on the belief that its possessor is wealthy and therefore honorable (Bourdieu 1990; Kato 20 04:4). This symbolic capital is inherently powered by social definitions of value. These social definitions of value emanate from individual cultures where cultural capital is formed through a process of economic socialization (B ourdieu 1990). Cultural capital is a form of knowledge th at equips agents with the ability to decipher cultural artifacts and relations and this cultura l capital can be transformed into economic capital. An example of economic socialization occu rs among women of African descent in the American South when they make their first visi t to a beauty supply stor e that sells products specifically tailored to them. Upon entering these stores, the wo men or girls are exposed to a cornucopia of gels, oils, and other potions that are purported to dramatically increase hair growth. The price of the product co rrelates with its alleged effec tiveness. The more effective the product is in generating hair growth the more it co sts. This socialization experiences teaches the women that long hair is valuable so valuable that it even cost s more to acquire (Akbari 2002; Allahar 1993; Archer 1968; Ashe 1995; Banks 1997; Banks 2000; Bennett and Dickerson 2001; Bond and Cash 1991; Brooks 2001; Brown 1994; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Chambers, et al. 1992; Jacobs-Huey 1999; Perkins 1996; Persadsingh 2003; Rooks 1994). Being actively socialized about the material worth of hair reinforces it s symbolic value for women. Armed with an understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural construction of the body we are now prepared to discuss hair symbolism.

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61 Psychoanalytical and Anthropologi cal Literature on Hair Symbolism In order to understand the im portance of hair as a possible shared symbolic meaning I begin by trying to understand the various ways in which social scientist and philosophers have grappled with the symbolism of hair. In this se ction I will explore some of the key theoretical views that historically have info rmed our thinking about hair. Some of the earliest social science theories on hair can be traced back to Fre uds (1922) posthumous publication, The Medusas Hair. Researchers have described Freuds note as a psychoanalytical assessment that equated the fear of matted locks of hair to castration (Banks 1997; Obey esekere 1981), This castration complex is a common theme in Freuds work and when analyzing dreams he often seems to equate hair cutting, baldness, and even tooth loss to castration (Fre ud 1938:595; Petocz 1999). Freuds fascination with the symbols of castratio n, led him to assert th at a womans hair and mouth were synonymous to her genitals in dreams. As Freud describes the genital symbols in mythology, he points out that above all the snake, is the most important symbol of the male member (Freud 1938:373; Petocz 1999). Consequen tly when considering the snakes protruding from Medusas head, Freud analyzes the snake ha ir as a phallic symbol and the removal of her head and hair to be symbolic of castration. Sigm und Freud's work serves as the starting point for psychoanalytic theories rega rding hair in anthropology. Charles Berg (1951) followed Freud's reli ance on psychoanalytic theory in his book The Unconscious Significance of Hair Berg delved into the psychoa nalytical meaning of hair in dreams and folklore. He extended Freuds analysis of hair cutting as a castration complex, to argue that head hair was a unive rsal symbol for genitals and t hus cutting hair was a symbolic form of castration and denial of sexual freedom Berg relied on ancien t ethnographic evidence to assert that this castration anxiet y was a cultural universal that even transcended gender. Berg

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62 writes, If we enquire further into the mysterious nature of this st rength invested in the hair we discover that it is held to have fertilizing powers (Berg 1951:23). He also states that, I shall merely call attention to the fact that this hair behaviour has in women beco me so important that it has been specialized and relegated to a host of professionals (Berg 1951:4). Berg viewed hairdressing as a ritualistic ce lebration and he was determined to unearth its psychological meaning. Considering the historical development of Fre uds psychoanalytic theory as a treatment for neurotic, wealthy European women, I find it problema tic to use this approa ch in the study of a more diverse population. Psychoanalytic theory underestimates the role environment plays on individual personality development, and overempha sizes the influence of the sex drive. While I agree with Bergs and Freuds views of hair dr essing as a ritual infused with multiple symbols and meaning I do not rely on their assertions th at hair is primarily representative of sexual organs. Anthropology has been instrumental in affirm ing that Freud and Berg were correct in believing that hair held symbolic importance and contained focused unconscious meaning. In 1958, anthropologist Edmund Leach commented on this aspect of Bergs work in the essay, Magical Hair In Magical Hair Leach reexamined the ethnogra phic evidence cited by Berg and presented his own ethnographic examples in order to arrive at the same conclusions. Interestingly Leach expanded the notion of hair as a symbol by providing additional exampl es of this reality in different cultures. Leach argued that hair is associated with se xual relations in a multitude of cultures. Leach was concerned with finding out where the conten t of symbols come from and how is it that some symbols are more emotionally loaded than others (Leach 1958:147). He divided the social

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63 world into a public realm which c onsisted of our public interacti ons in our culture and a private personal realm where we craft our individual personalities and sy mbols in preparation for our public performances. For Leach symbolic meani ngs were the provenance of the public realm and thus they had very little person al significance. He concluded that hair is a material entity that serves as a public symbol. However, for Leach the conscious public symbol of hair can only be moderately illuminated by psyc hoanalytical theory. Leach's empha sis on locating the origin and emotion attached to symbolic meanings attributed to hair adds credence to my research questions about the shared meaning of hair and the possibi lity these meanings constitute a cultural domain. By investigating the origin and symbolic value of hair textures and styles my work parallels Leachs. A contemporary update on Leachs and Freuds assertion that hair contains symbolic sexual powers can be found in Wendy Coopers Hair: Sex, Society, and Symbolism (1971), which provides an in-depth analysis of the histor y of hair and hairstyles from ancient Egyptian times to the hippies of the 1970s. Cooper discussed how hair has been linked to female sexuality in many cultures and she notes that the appeal of women's head hair is almost a cultural universal. Cooper also delved into the history of hairdressing and the hair industry. She argued that hairdressers were artists who were charged with the renewa l of women's glamour, spirit, and confidence (Cooper 1971:181). Overall, she provided an in-depth look at the history of hair and its symbolic importance in various cultures. Cooper's work, when combined with Berg's, provides a firm basis for my inquiry into the func tion of beauty shops in the art of ritualistic hairdressing. Cooper laid the foundation for research ers to interrogate the be auty industry and its workers as producers of culture.

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64 In the essay Social Hair C.R. Hallpike, (1969) challeng ed the association Leach made between hair cutting, castration, and hair length as an indicati on of sexuality. Although Hallpike agreed that hair has been percei ved as the seat of the soul, he argued that there was no clear evidence linking hair to libido a nd thus symbolic castration. Ha llpike pointed out that with Berg's logic everything cut or removed from th e body would be reduced to symbolic castration. He offered men's beards as a more appropriate lo cation for symbolism associated with castration. Hallpike also theorized that donning long hair was symbolic of being outside of society and cutting or hairdressing equa led social control and the reen try into society (Turner 1975). Hallpike critiqued Leach's reliance on the ps ychoanalytic paradigm that focused on an individuals understanding of sy mbols. Instead Hallpike (19 69) advocated determining the structure of symbolism as it re lates to the groups co smology, social organization, and values. Hallpike says, once the anthropologist has discerned the struct ure of the symbolism in the culture he is investigating, his work is complete. The structure is there in the symbolism, just as the structure is there in a language analysed by the linguist (1969:263). Hallpikes work encouraged me to inves tigate how hair symbolism might shape the worldview of African-descended women. By ch aracterizing hair as a symbol of group cosmology Hallpike positively influenced my belief that hair could be a cultural belief domain. Raymond Firths essay, Hair as Private Asse t and Public Symbol (Firth 1973a), confirmed Coopers assertion that hair is a tr ue racial characteristic. Firth also argued that the significance of hair and hairstyles is a cultural universal. For Firth hair and hair styles were used as a form of social expression and control. Fo r example, Firth mentions the us e of the Afro by women in the mid-1960s as a symbol of ethnic identity and pol itics. He also made an important observation when he identified the link that African Amer icans perceive between non-kinky hair and the social status of Whites (Firth 1973a:273). Firth argued that alt hough hair is a private asset its

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65 visibility also makes it a public symbol. Like Hallpike, Firth saw a connection between hair length and social control, partic ularly in Western culture. But, he differed by noting that in the Buddhist belief system, long ha ir is associated with power and shorn hair symbolizes subjugation of the self to so cial rule (Firth 1973a:290). Firth recognized that different forms of social control may demand different forms of hair treatment, even in the same soci ety (Firth 1973a:297). Therefore, although he argued that hair is a universal symbol, he admits that its meaning is inherently variable. Firth made some of the first arguments about the integration of the public and private significance of hair. For example he connects the private to the publ ic and political display of ha irstyles for African American women when he writes: A more recent kind of statement, indicating not a personal relationship so much as a personal commitment, has been the wearing of Afro hair styles by black American women. Appearing in the mid-1960s as a manifestation of black pride, with its suggestion of African, not American origins and independe nce, the Afro became a symbol of ethnic identity and as such a politic al statement (Firth 1973a: 297). Firths work strongly influenced my resear ch on several levels. His recognition of the symbolic importance of hair for African Americ ans, his arguments about the public and private value of hair, and finally his acknowledgement of the potential for intracultural variation of symbolic beliefs make his work a suitable foundation for my research. In Hair, Sex and Dirt P. Hershman (1974) conducted what he called an ethnography of body symbolism. In this ethnography, which focu ses on hair within Hindu and Sikh Punjabis cultures, he attempted to test the universality of particular sy mbols. Hershman supported the psychoanalytical thesis presented by Berg that said hair is associat ed with genitals. However, he asserted that what a symbol is should be separate from what a symbol says or does (Hershman 1974:291). Subsequently for him hair never means any one particular thing, but rather in various contexts it is used as a means of expressing different things (Hershman

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66 1974:279). Thus Hershman asserted that althou gh symbols gain their emotive power from a subconscious association with genitals once th ese symbols are manipulated by cultural rituals they become expressions of cultural values. He rshman's recognition that the symbolic meanings associated with hair may vary depending on the context serves as another important prong in the framework for my research. Gananath Obeyesekere (1981) used his book entitled Medusa's Hair in an attempt to supersede traditional ethnogr aphy by focusing on the cultur al, social, and psychological dimensions of his informants lives. Obeyesekere criticized Leachs analysis of private versus personal symbols when he argued that cultural meanings are li nked to personal experience and personal symbols. In other words, the public symbol is directly c onnected to the private symbol. Despite the fact that Obeyeseker e recognized the value of psychoana lytic theory, he criticized the notion advanced by Berg that hair is a symbolic penis. Obeyesekere also pointed out the ethnocentrism in both Leach and Berg's analysis of hair symbolism. Obeyesekere argued that: The anthropologist works on the assumption that cultural forms derived from Western thought--magic, ritual, myth, and so forth--are part of an inte grated symbolic order we call culture, and that all of it can be analyzed in the identical manner. Furthermore, note that terms like myth and magic are labels from popular Western thought; these categories are not found in most non-Western sy stems . the presumption that such labels have cross cultural valueis simply unsupported (1981:18). He encouraged researchers to investigate the meaning that individuals attach to symbols instead of attempting to infer it from our ethnocentr ic cultural standpoints. He pointed out that Berg and Leach erred because they inferred the meaning of the symbol from itself and did not refer to the persons in the cultu re who employ the symbol (Obeye sekere 1981). By investigating the matted hair of the Hindu ascetic, Obeyesekere locates the origin of the symbol, the personal

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67 meaning of the symbol for the individuals, a nd the social or cultural message the symbol communicates to the group. Obeyeskere advocated a methodology that refe rences the group, the individual, and the culture in which they live when attempting to understand symbols. His work is particularly influential to my research as a methodological guid e. I have crafted my research to elicit the origin, meaning, and cultural messages imbued in Black womens hair. Hair theorists have postulated that hair can be used as a form of resistance to conventiona l ideas (Mageo 1994), but it can also simultaneously convey oppressive and liberating messages about a persons beliefs, morality, sexual orientation, poli tics and religious sentiments through its symbolism (EilbergSchwartz and Doniger 1995). In my researc h, focusing on the group, th e individual, and the culture allows for the possibili ty of uncovering grounded theory specifically about the hair culture of African-descended women. Hair among African-Descended Women in the American South The international performance ensemble known as the Urban Bush Women is dedicated to social activism and community development. For over twenty years they have sought to enlighten the public, encourage community deve lopment, and speak out against oppression and exploitation. Their performan ces celebrate the beauty of Black womanhood and the cultural influences of the African Diaspora. Recently th e Urban Bush Women produced an interactive performative dialogue about the political significan ce of hair. Their production entitled Hairstories, explores the poli tical arena of hairstyles and te xtures through a multimedia dance performance (Zollar and Herron 2001). This dance/multimedia presentation/audience participation piece engages the concept of nappy ha ir and its relationship to beauty ideals and social capital. In the scene titled Hot Comb Blues, Zollars group demonstrates the political,

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68 social, aesthetic, and intergenerational conflict that stems from hairst yle choice and texture among African-descended women. The scene: physicalized the bu rn of a hot comb, the itch of a perm, and the yanking and tugging of a mother combing her daughters hair. The performance evoked visceral memories in hair party participants and inspir ed them to tell stories about their own hair hell moments. These stories stimulated dialogue about what people put themselves through to have good hair. Further questio ning led the group to consider the social pressures behind good hair and bad hair and the origin of our values about acceptable forms of beauty (Atlas 2005:5). Zollars work is important because it demonstr ates how hair functions to form ideas about identity, politics, and beauty ideals. Hair ma tters to African-descended women because it is a visible manifestation of gendered and racial identity. The producti on of Hairstori es is one of many public and personal explorations of hair conducted by African-descended women in recent years. This play and other artistic works affirm that hair is a complex and powerful signifier for Black women. As a result, Black womens styling of their hair is a cultur al process intertwined with what Gananath Obeyesekere calls cultural sy mbols that include historical notions about social biology and social race (Mercer 1987; Obeyesekere 1981:2) These cultural symbols are the expression of personal individual ity in response to the culture. The notion that African hair texture and styles are imbue d with aesthetic value and symbolic meanings did not originate with coloni zation and enslavement (Sieber, et al. 2000). For example, Sieber points out that when Europeans first came into contact with West Africans they documented the myriad forms of hairstyles on display in the population (Sieber, et al. 2000; White and White 1995). Africans were engaging in elaborate hair grooming techniques that included activities like shaving, braiding, curling, knotting, wrapping, and coloring. They were also known for weaving supplementary materials into the hair for lengthening, twisting, and adding ornamental shells, silver, leather or gold to various styles (Sie ber, et al. 2000:18-24).

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69 Hence the rituals of hair care engaged in by enslaved and contemporary people of African descent are strikingly similar to the procedures used by pre colonized Af ricans (Sieber, et al. 2000; White and White 1995). Shane and Graham Whites (1995) essay on slav e hair reveals that an enslaved African womans beauty was integrally tied to her ha ir texture and grooming procedures (White and White 1995). The Whites also disc uss how the slaveholders wive s would punish female slaves by shaving their hair, particularly if it approx imated the White beauty ideal. They advance the notion that the coiffure processes of enslaved pe ople could be read as acts of resistance. The rationale behind their argument is that the enslaved challenged th e predefined notion that they were ugly, less humane, and unkempt by crafting palatable appearances. The Whites work is important because they acknowledge the importan ce of translating the meanings behind hair signification and also recognize th e immense difficulty of the tas k. They note that reading the messages produced by culturally and ethnically diverse groups of Africans in Diaspora is difficult if our goal is to uncove r the Africanisms associated with the symbols they employ. However documenting Africanisms in the Diaspora is not my goal. In my research I focus on understanding what hair signifies among cont emporary African-descended women. I do not speculate about the African orig ins of hairstyles. Instead my goal is to document the lived experiences of contemporary African-descended wo men because only they can tell me what they think and feel about hair and how it impacts their personal and public lives. African Hair, specifically, African American wo mens hair has been and continues to be a contested matter. The emotional baggage that ou r hair carries is read ily evidenced by the brouhaha that erupted in 1997 over Carolina Herrons book Nappy Hair This childrens book, which extols the virtues of loving your own natural hair, was protested by Black parents, some of

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70 whom, incidentally, had never examined the book. The parents were simply outraged by the title of the book. Eventually, the White teacher, Ms. Sherman, was physically threatened, suspended from her job, and forced to transfer to another school (Heyden 1998). This violent reaction of the parents stemmed from the use of the historically pejora tive word nappy. The books Good and Bad Hair by Bill Gaskins (1997) and Dreads (1999) by Mastalia and Pagano, probably fared better on the bookstand because they serve as visual documentaries of contemporary hairstyles. But, in 1998 teenager Michelle Barsk ile, who wears dreadlocks, found out that critics of Black hairstyles are not alwa ys White, when a chapter of the oldest African American female sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, banned Barskile from participating in their debutante ball because they disapproved of her dreadlocks (Fullwood 1998; Hutchinson 1998). To understand why Black women have generated such a wide range of emotional responses to hair I must explore the history and meaning of Bl ack hair as a cultural symbol. I have already disc ussed some of the contemporar y dialogue about hair. In the remainder of the chapter, I will conduct a historiography1 of Black hair, and will review some of the most pertinent literature, research and social commentary on Black hair. Black Hair Historiography The controversy surrounding the concept of st raight versus nappy ha ir is not just a contemporary concern. In 1859 a New York Times ar ticle recounts the public demonstration of a hair straightening process conducted by Mr. Hodgson, a White man, who was also known as, the great African hair unkinker (Bundles 2001; Harris 1974; Lester 2000; Author Unknown 1859). After the successful convers ion of nappy to straight hair a woman exclaimed that, she would not desert her race for straight hair and Indian features (A uthor Unknown 1859). This 1 Historiography is the study of the corpus of body of historical works (de Chadarevian 1997).

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71 statement is but one of many examples of how hair texture has been linked to biology and notions of racial affiliation. After emancipation African-descended women in America turned to various techniques to assure their assimilation into dominant culture. During the early ninet een hundreds there was a prominent belief that the maintenance of proper conduct and appearance w ould elevate the status of the race and ensure our access to civil righ ts. Defining the notion of proper conduct and appearance became a major area of discourse among leaders in the African American community (Tyler 1990). The popularity of straightening hair among African American women can be traced to community leaders like Booker T. Washington, Alexander Crummel, and James Samuel Stemons. Booker T. Washington used hi s influence at the coll ege he founded, Tuskegee Institute, to teach Victorian standards of pers onal appearance and public decorum to an entire generation of Blacks. Crummel advocated the as similation of Victorian or White middle class values and codes of conduct for Blacks because he believed that European culture was the most advanced in the world (Moses 1978; Tyler 1990:237). Stemons, a Black postal worker, spoke vehe mently throughout the country at Black churches and organizations concerning his be lief that mob violence was instigated by inappropriate Black appearance and conduct. He advocated the assim ilation of Anglo Saxon manners and personal appearance as a way for re spectable Blacks to separate themselves from those that were in the lowe r class (Stemons 1916; Stemons 1943). These men, who were sometimes called assimilationists, were in an ideological battle with Black nationalists who encouraged the development of a un ique African American style. Interestingly Marcus Garvey, who was the pe rsonification of Black self-consciousness, Black self help, and Black economic independence, was reportedly fascin ated by his wifes long

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72 straight hair. In her memoirs, Garveys sec ond wife Amy Jacques Garvey who, unlike his first wife, possessed light skin and long wavy hair, writes, My hair let down, thrilled him. It was long and naturally wavy, he asked me never to cut it. The first time he saw it down, cu riously he felt some strands a nd said, 'why it is soft,' as I tossed my head, he exclaimed, 'Oh, but it is so live' (Garvey 1963:186). Hence while in public while Garvey was galv anizing people of African descent to feel racial pride and seek cultural redemption t hough new definitions of Black beauty, he was privately thrilled by long natura lly wavy straight hair. Garveys own proclivities indicate that the battle between straight and nappy hair is both public and ex tremely private. I would also argue that in the 21st century many people of African descen t still struggle with this internal conflict over issues of hair. Historian Leon Litwack wrote about how M.H. Freeman was one of the first African Americans to assume that emulating White beauty ideals should be seen as pathological when the result is what Freeman called the, ludicrous anomaly of Indian hair over Negro features (Litwack 1961:182-183). This assumption of path ology and the debate about the value and meaning of straight or nappy hair stretches from the late nine teenth century to contemporary times. Among African-descended women in America st raight hair is synonymous with being in a higher social class while nappy hair associates one with a lower or non mainstream social class (Banks 1997). Moreover the straightening comb became an icon in the quest to establish the new Black middle class (Douglas 1997). When straightening hair was first made av ailable to the masses of African American women, the intent was not to injure our psyche s, but to enhance Black womens confidence as we interacted in a hostile segregated envi ronment (Blackwelder 2003). Women of African descent in America were interested in crafti ng an alternative image of Blacks through physical deportment and good grooming. One of the pioneer s in this area was Annie Turnbo Malone

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73 founder of the PORO system a nd the PORO Beauty College. According to anthropologist Evelyn Phillips, Malone selected PORO as her companys name because it is a West African Mende word that originated from a covert mutu al aid society (Phillips 2003:4). The word PORO symbolizes mutual aid, community uplift, spir itual and material growth (Philips 2003:6). In the late 1800s Malone began research ing the development of non-damaging hair straightening products, hair grower s, and conditioners. Malones inte rest in hair textures helped her to develop one of the first straightening combs marketed to women of African descent. Malone may have developed this product in an effort to resolve th e cognitive dissonance experienced by women of African descent in America. This cognitive dissonance is brought on by being caught between who we are and how our images are constructed by White racism and beauty ideals (Philips 2003:9). Eventually Ma lone trained over 75,000 women at her beauty colleges. She held conferences to teach her met hods to women of African descent in Cuba, the Bahamas, Mexico, and Haiti, and she is report ed to have been worth more than 14 million dollars. Malones message of African cente red economic empowerment, community outreach, and personal uplift was carried forward by Sara Breedlove, who later became Madame C.J. Walker (Bell-Scott 1994; Bundles 2001; Colman 1994; Philips 2003). Madame C.J. Walker utilized her experience as a saleswoman with the PORO company to launch her own beauty supply and procedures company. Further te stament to the importance of Black hair is evidenced by Walkers phenomenal economic success. As hair culturist, Walker and Malone, were among the first American women to become self made millionaires (BellScott 1994; Bundles 2001; Colman 1994; Philip s 2003). Black women had been straightening their hair with flatirons since the 1820s but Mada me C.J. Walker is often erroneously credited with and simultaneously critiqued for inventi ng the straightening comb (Bundles 2001; Tyler

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74 1990). She is usually given this title because in 1905 she patented a versio n of the straightening comb that she had modified to suit Black ha ir. However, Walkers prior employer, Annie Malone, also held a patent on a straightening com b. Researchers now say that Walkers hair oils, cold curling on pressed hair procedure, and st raightening combs were meant to uplift the race (Bundles 2001; Ottley 1943) by a ssisting Black women in deifying the stereotypes that racism had imposed on them (Bundles 2001; Ottley 1943). She offered Black women an opportunity to shed the negative images of nappy hair in favor of good hair which opened both economic and social doors. Walkers sales and training techniques foreshadowed th e marketing strategies employed by companies like Avon and Mary Kay. Walker gave Black women the first opportunity they may have ever had to c ontrol their financial destinies (Peiss 1998). The Walker method and the hot co mb dominated the Black beauty industry until the 1930s when Sara Spencer Washington secured th e first patent for a long lasti ng chemical hair straightening process she called the Apex system. The so cial and overwhelming economic successes of Madame CJ Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone ar e evidence of the power and political economy of hair in the lives of African-descended women. As important as hair seems to be among Af rican-descended women, it is difficult to find social science literature that specifically addresses its culturally specific symbolic meanings. It seems as if researchers are apprehensive about trying to unlock what I call the grammar of hair, by which I mean the symbolic language tr ansmitted when women in this group view each others hair. Thus while social scientists vehemently argue that hair is of integral importance because of its political, public, and inherently pe rsonal nature, few studies have investigated how these political, public or personal meanings are actually articulate d. My research investigates

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75 these shortcomings by offering an explanation of the meaning associated w ith various hairstyles that can be used to understand the lived experi ences and culture of African-descended women. Literature Review on Black Hair When psychologists William Grier and Price Cobbs published their book Black Rage (1968) they argued that the Western world had crafted the Black woman as the antithesis of beauty. Hair and skin were the fundamental markers that preven ted the Black woman from being seen as ideal beauties. They stated, her Blac kness is the antithesis of a creamy White skin, her lips are thick, her hair is kinky and short. She is in fact the antithesis of American beauty. However beautiful she might be in a different setti ng . in this country she is ugly (Grier and Cobbs 1968:33). Grier and Cobbs also noted that for Black women hair was particularly important because it was a constant source of pa in that mothers inflicted on daughters in hair combing rituals. They proposed that Black wo men learned from childhood that hair must be painfully transformed in order to create an accep table public image. Grier and Cobbs said that young girls must think, If mo ther has to inflict such pain on me to bring me to the level of acceptability, then I must have been ugly indeed before the combing (Grier and Cobbs 1968:35). Furthermore, they theorized that while Caucasian women endure pain for beauty African American women endure pain just to be presentable on a daily basis. Ultimately, they argued that, long, straight hair a nd a fair skin have seemed to be the requirements for escaping the misery of being a Black woman (Grier and Cobbs 1968:37). Grier and Cobbs theories represent a major departure from the traditional notion that hair symbolizes genitalia which had been advanced by other social scientists. In 400 Years Without a Comb hair stylist Willie Morrow (1973) provided readers with a historical overview of Black ha ir and hairstyles. Morrow argued that hair texture served as a primary indicator of their link to Africa. Unfortunately, this link was viewed as negative because

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76 it was also a sign of slavery and inferiority. Morrow argued that among Africans in the Diaspora hair forms that were celebrated in Africa were quickly despised in the New World. Curly and kinky hair became synonymous with servitude and in feriority. So while hair may still be linked to gender and sex for women of African descent it has additional meanings that need to be explored. My work specifically investigates these meanings. I depart from the arguments produced by Greer and Cobbs in an effort to develop a grounded theory about the meaning of hair and hairstyles amon g African-descended women. In his book Slavery and Death: A Comparative Study, Orlando Patterson (1982) echoes Morrows assertion that hair was more important than skin color duri ng slavery. In fact Patterson states that, hair became critical as a mark of servility in the Americas (Patterson 1982:61). He argues that miscegenation muted th e importance of skin color and, hair type rapidly became the real symbolic badge of sl avery (Patterson 1982:61) Patterson recounts an 1836 court case where an octoroon2 slave is sentenced to have he r head shaved for disrespecting her mistress. The slaves hair was long and wavy and apparently had the appearance of Caucasian hair. The slave quickly re placed her missing hair with a wig. This story could be interpreted to mean that for the octoroon hair was symbolic of her approximation to Whiteness. Effectively her punishme nt was to be rendered less White. I think that this forced haircut seems to be just as trau matic as the symbolic castration theories advanced by Freud, Leach, and Berg. My analysis of the ev ent is that the enslaved womans castration was not of her genitals, but of her social standing as being nearly White. Furthermore, I read this 2 The terms mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon were used predominantly in the 19th and 20th century to describe people of mixed ancestry with a certain level of mathematical precision in America. The term mulatto indicated that a person had one Black parent and one White parent. The term quadroon indicated that a person was 1/4th Black, having only one Black grandparent. The term octoroon was used to indicate that a person had 1/8th Black ancestry, or that they were descended from one Black great grand parent (See Merriam Webster Dictionary On-Line Edition 2003, Painter 1919: 414).

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77 incident to mean that her hair texture had imbue d her with a level of social Whiteness and once it was removed she also lost her status. With this story Patterson taps in to the belief system, values, and symbols regarding Black hair that I interrogate in my research. Esi Sagay uses her book African Hairstyles: Styles of Yesterday and Today (1983) to document the complexity of hairstyles worn on the continent of Africa. Her work primarily focuses on the ethnomethodological desc ription of various styles. Sh e also discusses the effects of colonialism and hairstyling pr actices of modern Africa. For example she argues that African leaders who were educated in European school s brought back to their countries European hairstyles that were quickly emulated by the less privileged citizen s (Sagay 1983:46). Sagays work is particularly interesting because it shows how the ritualized production of hairstyles has not significantly changed since being transplanted to the New World. I argue that these hair rituals stem from a combination of so cial, cultural, and economic practices. In his article, Black Hairstyles, Appearan ce, Conduct and Cultural Democracy, historian Bruce Tyler (1990) discusses the origin of African American wo mens beliefs about hair and hairstyles. Through a content an alysis of advertisements targeted at Blacks, comments by historical figures, legal cases, and magazine articles, Tyler reconstructs the political and historical background for modern African Ameri can hairstyles. Tyler refutes Grier and Cobbs argument that women who alter their hair are st ruggling with self-hatre d issues. Instead he theorized that women might be following European beauty ideals in an effort to secure their financial status. Once again we see that when social scientists focus on African American womens hair they open up the potential for alternative theori es about hair symbolism. While Tylers article explores the social c onstruction of beauty that causes African Americans to choose particular hairstyles, he fail s to investigate whether there is any perceived

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78 correlation between socioeconomic status, edu cational attainment, po liticization, religious affiliation, personality traits and hairstyle choice. As informative as Tylers article is, he still seems to assume that the meaning of hair among African-descended women is clearly defined. Like Taylor, I question theorists who assert th at anytime women of African descent select European inspired hairstyles they are engaging in acts of self-hatred and internalized racism. My research goes beyond this simple binary to i nvestigate reasons why women choose either a natural or straight hairstyle instead of assuming a spurious correlation be tween their politics and hairstyle choices. In the essay, Black Hair/Style Politics, K obena Mercer (1992) asks why so much time, money, and energy is used to produce the art form of hairdressing. I believe that Mercer begins to answer his own question when he characterize s hairdressing and styles as forms of art. Following his logic African-descended women would appear to have an affinity for creating aesthetically pleasi ng forms. Mercer suggests that Africans Americans should recognize hair as a raw material that is being processed by cultu re. Biological determinism and racism have politicized Black hair by using it as a racial signifier and ve sting it with the same negative connotations that are carried by the race. Mercers ar gument gives credence to the development of theories about hair being synonymous to race for people of African descent. His assertion that hair is a raw material that is being proces sed by culture (Mercer 1992:249) points to the following logic: If hair is a raw material pr ocessed by culture, and women in the African Diaspora are practicing the same rituals and producing the same hairstyles, then is it possible that they are part of the same culture? However, there is the theory of diffusion that allows for the development of similar cultu ral forms in different places without cultural contact that may account for these phenomena.

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79 Thus although Mercer seems to be arguing that hair should be deemphasized among African-descended people, his work has the opposite effect. Mercers arguments for depsychologizing hair and investig ating it as a specific cultural practice are central concepts in my work. Guided by Mercer I view hair as a power ful racial and cultural si gnifier that is crafted through ritual practice and commun ity performance. I argue that African-descended people have instituted a, textureocracy for hair that mirrors the pigmentocra cy utilized to separate Blacks based on skin color in plantation societies (M ercer 1992:250) Hair texture comes to symbolize socioeconomic status, educational attainment, political beliefs, religious affiliation, and personality traits. As such a power ful signifier, hair texture along w ith hairstyle can also directly influence an individuals pe rsonal and political economy. I fo llow Mercers suggestion for research by actually asking people what they th ink about the textureoc racy that has been imposed by our culture. Despite the fact that Russell and Wilson acknowledge hair as an issue tantamount to skin color among African-descended people the book, The Color Complex: the politics of skin color among African Americans only spends one out of nine chapters discussing this fact (Russell, et al. 1998). Russell highlights the significance of ha ir when writing, how an African American chooses to style his or her hair says everything there is to be sa id about that individuals Black consciousness, socioeconomic class, and probable life-style, particul arly when the individual is a woman (Russell, et al. 1998:84). They even assert that, a certain level of Black consciousness would seem necessary before a woman dares to go natural (Russell, et al. 1998:85). However, these statements are never explored by the book. Without seeking empi rical or ethnographic support Russells work reifies the argument that w earing straight hair is a sign of mental illness

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80 as articulated in books like Black Rage by Grier and Cobbs (1968) and Black Skins, White Masks by psychologist Franz Fanon (1967). In The Color Complex Black women are pathologized and depoliticized based on their hairstyles. Russell never asks whether there is act ually a level of Black c onsciousness that must be reached to acquire natural hair. He simply asse rts that there is one. Reading this work made me wonder if some level of Black consciousness is actually required for a woman to wear natural hair. Moreover, I wondered what happens if a woman reaches that mystical level of Black consciousness and she does not choose a natural hairstyle? Would her fa ilure to convert to a natural hairstyle negate her Bl ack consciousness? What if wo men wearing natural hairstyles have less Black consciousness? The book merely regurgitates stereot ypes without questioning their validity. Since The Color Complex fails to address these central questions my research examines these issues because th ey were identified in the book as pivotal issues among Blacks. Through my study I hope to understand the symbolic meaning attached to va rious hairstyles and textures and answer questions about po litics of hair and personal choice. The personal remains political because this t ype of personal choice has occasionally been made in response to what people believe is a ppropriate for women who are socially conscious. For example, in her essay The Making of a Perm anent Afro Gloria Wade Gayles states that, An activist with straight hair was a contradicti on. A lie. A joke . never again . .would I alter my hair . In its natural state, my hair would be . .a symbol of my self-esteem and racial pride (Wade-Gayles 1993:213). This type of sentiment was foreshadowed by Alice Walker's address to a group of college graduates when she explained why she began gr owing dreadlocks (1988). Yet, Angela Davis discusses her anger over the f act that young African Americans ha ve reduced the entire Civil Rights movement into a hairstyle (Davis 1994).

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81 These may seem like strong sentiments but, th is level of importance may make sense to some women like lisa jones who wr ites, "hair is the be-all and e nd-all. Everything I know about American history I learned from looking at Black people's hair It's all in the hair" (jones 1994:11-12). jones work Bullet Proof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex and Hair (1994) unapologetically focuses on understanding what we do to hair, how we do it, and why. Although her book does not hold true to its single-minded focus hair remains a salient character throughout her essays. Her essay the hair tr ade (1994) is particularly valuab le because she investigates the origin of the human hair produc ts that are the foundation for a multitude of African American women's hairstyling practices. This essay inspired me to research the international hair trade and analyze its impact on African-desce nded women. The objectives she set forth in her essay were directly incorporated into my inquiries about the origins of sy nthetic and human hair purchased by women of African descent in Am erica. This essay also encouraged me to examine the work other social scientists have done on Bl ack beauty products and advertisements. In her dissertation Hair-Raising: African American Women, Beauty, Culture, and Madame C.J. Walker (1994) Noliwe Makada Rooks examined advertisements for hair products published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. Although she discusses the debates about hair straightening, and expl ains the importance of the look and feel of African American hair, she fails to examine why the look and feel of hair are important issues or how hair and hair texture function as signifiers among contemporary African-descended women. One of the most comprehensive collections of empirical data regard ing African American women and hair can be found in Sonja Peters on-Lewis (1994) essay, Aesthetic Practices Among African American Women Peterson-Lewis historicized the concept of beauty ideals and tests three propositions for the rationale be hind African American ha irstyling practices. The

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82 Aesthetic Variation proposition argued that African Amer ican women are simply practicing aesthetics. Her Derision of Africanity proposition argued that these practices are an effort to approximate White beauty ideals. I applied Peterson-Lewis mode l of beauty ideals as an aesthetics scale to create my hair survey. I use my hair survey to elicit data from a large pool of women who are connected to the Internet. Hair for African American women is so important that in Aloina Gibsons book Nappy: Growing Up Black and Female in America (1995) it actually a ppears to be a real character in her memoir. Her hair memories are as strong as th e memories she has about real people. Gibsons narration confirms my findings that hair is of primary concern to African American women, and maybe even more important than the issues of body image and weight. Gibsons work and the Hair Stories performance by the Urban Bush Wome n encouraged me to collect hair stories for narrative analysis. All of the works I have discussed so fa r could be summarized in Ingrid Banks book, Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Womens Consciousness (2000). Based on the findings derived from five focus groups a nd forty-three interviews Banks is able to link hair to broader social and cultural values for Black women. Fu rther, her ethnographic approach demonstrates how Black women can explain in their own word s why hair matters for them individually and socially. Banks confirms the persistence in th e Black community of st rong beliefs about the existence of good and bad hair textures. This is despite the positiv e influence of the 1960s Black is beautiful movement that emphasized self esteem during that time and today has introduced the wearing of natural hairstyles among the proponents of Afrocentric cultural values. Her findings reveal that Black wo men who wear natural styles ar e more likely to agree with assertions that straightening hair is a form of self hatred, thou gh women with straight hairstyles

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83 are less likely to agree. Banks study is one of the most sophisticated qualitative inquiries into the importance of hair among Black women. My work builds on Banks investigation by combining interviews and particip ant observation with survey data I further extend these studies by investigating the material cult ure and production of various styl es and interroga ting the shared meaning of these styles. Whereas Banks interviews delve into the individuals psyche regarding hair, my research is about the collective knowledge held by women of African descent. For these women hairstyle choice serves as a personal symbol which can be read publicly if you know the symbolic grammar of the particular culture (Firth 1973b; Leach 1958; Obeyesekere 1990). Hair ultimately is a symbol of racial identification, political affiliation, sexua l orientation, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status. Another important contribution is the work of Obiagele Lake w ho goes beyond Russell and Banks by combining the issues of sk in color and hair texture. In Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousne ss in African America (2003), Lake highlight s the importance of naming (nomo), skin color, and hair among Af rican-descended people in the Americas. She recognizes these three areas as key factors in identity production among Blacks. Her most significant contribution is the histor icizing of the intra-racial polic ies of elitism, segregation, and pigmentocracy practiced by Blacks in North Ameri ca. Lake argues that just because scientists have determined that race is not a biological reality does not mean that the concept has lost its social power. She points out how race has re tained its social pow er through the overt devaluation of African culture and beauty ideals in Western culture. Lakes work echoes the scholarship of Carter G. Woodson (1933) who theo rized that internalized and intra-group racism among Blacks should be viewed as more threateni ng than the overt racism initiated by Whites. For example, Lake discusses how a group of Black s with lighter skin sp lit from the African

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84 Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870 in order to form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. She also documents how intra-racial segregati on became the primary goal of Black social groups like the Blue Vein Society and the Brown Fellows hip Society, which created strict membership guidelines to exclude people based on skin color a nd hair texture. Lakes work is an excellent historical explanation for the co ntemporary beliefs associated with the value of hair and hair texture among Blacks. The final work of significance in this emergi ng field of Black women s hair is that of historian Elizabeth Johnson. She re cognizes the need for feminism and semiotics to be used in the investigation of, African American Womens Hair as Te xt (Johnson 2004). Johnson reviewed photographs, enslavement narratives, runaway enslavement notices, and conducted a content analysis of magazine ar ticles to understand the symbolic meaning of womens hairstyles. My own ethnography research follows Johnsons me thodology as I explore the lived experiences of contemporary women. My research departs fr om Johnsons historical investigation of Black womens hair, and focuses on discovering the cu rrent boundaries of Black hair culture. While Johnson reviewed the historical significance of hair as text, my goal is to reveal the contemporary grammar of hair and read it as text. In this chapter I have reviewed the cultura l construction of the body, the anthropological literature on hair symbolism, why hair matters to African American wo men, the socio-political history of Black hair and conducte d a literature review on Black hair In the next chapter I will discuss the methods and methodology I used in my investigation of hair among women of African descent.

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85 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY AND METHODS . we "natives" cannot maintain hypothetical neut rality in the field. Even if we are not indigenous to the specific ethn ic community, shared histories, and differentia l relations to power as well as a personal identity that ma y fluctuate between incorporation into and resistance away from the dominant cultural hege mony creates a set of issues which must be confronted early on (McClaurin 1990). Hair matters to us because you can change you whole image just by changing your hairstyle. For example you can be lookin like a stockbroker with a real straight perm one minute and turn into a Ghetto hoochie with a waterfall weave after an afternoon in someones chair [Cosette Walker Inte rview with author February 8, 2005] How long you been growing your hair?[A que stion asked of me by 164 different women from 8/1/04-4/01/06 concerning my dreadlocks] Methodology This chapter begins with an explanation of the rationale and theoretical assumptions that guided my research and thus influenced the methods I selected to collect my data. I believe that understanding my epistemological views and methodology is important for any researcher who might wish to replicate the study. After a descri ption of the methodology, I review the settings, the sampling techniques I used, th e characteristics of the sample, and finally the various methods I employed during my data collection. The statements that open this chapter high light the complex nature of two issues: conducting research as a native anthropologist an d studying hair as a cultural domain. This qualitative research project emanates from my pos itionality as a native researcher combined with my interest in Black feminism, the African Di aspora, and symbolic an thropology. In order to interrogate the shared meaning of hair and hairst yles as it relates to the existence of a cultural domain; I use Black feminism to substantiate my inquiry into womens liv es. Then I rely on the conceptual framework of the African Diaspora to interrogate ideas about group identity. Finally, I use symbolic anthropology to guide my analysis of the symbolic meanings I encounter, and my

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86 status as a perceived insider as an entryway into an intimate belief system that has not yet been fully investigated by scholars. I will discuss my use of each of these concepts briefly and then move on to discuss the methods I utilized for da ta collection in this project. As mentioned previously this research began with two research questions: Are there shared symbolic meanings that wo men of African descent associate with their hair texture and hairstyle choice? If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among women of African descent? To answer these questions, I c onducted ethnographic fieldwork, a fo rm of qualitative research that traditionally involves varying degrees of qual itative and quantitative de scription of groups or phenomena (Handwerker 2001). Denzin and Linc oln offer the following description: Qualitative research is multimethod in focusth is means that qualitativ e researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research i nvolves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials--case study, pe rsonal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observationa l, historical, interacti ons, and visual texts-the described routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals' lives (Denzin and Lincoln 1994:2). Ethnography, then, involves the co nstruction of a holistic picture through the analysis of the various types of data described by Denzin and Lincoln above (Cresw ell 1998; Denzin and Lincoln 1994). My methodology included inte rviews, participant observation, digital storytelling, and the colle ction of visual materials such as ethnographic film and photographs. Since my focus was on the body and more specifically hair, this research was primarily based on the use of ethnographic photography and film. This methodology emanates from the field of visual anthropology (Collier 1967). William Wood writes that: Visual Anthropology complements other methods of imaging and recording and, therefore, cuts across the entire field of anthr opology. It provides methodologies pa rticularly suited to the study of material things, whether materi als of the habitat, artifacts of the culture, or postures of the human body, and these can be shown in proce ss of movement, pattern transformation, or interaction. The physical expressi on of feeling and emotion can be recorded, and the dynamics of

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87 interpersonal and group interactions can be studied to yield data unavailabl e through any other methodology. Visual methods then ar e particularly suited to dem onstrating certain relationships between material and non-material and among th e various aspects of cultural systems and of cultural-ecological systems (Wood 1989:30). So the methodology of visual anthropology added to my project by allowing me to study the material presentation of hair. As Wood discusses my use of ethnographic film gave me access to feelings and emotional responses to hair and hair styles that would have been unavailable without this method. This is also a multi-sited project based on interviews and participant observation and data collected through the less convent ional virtual ethnographic filed site on my computer, which led me to explore the electronic, mass-mediated community of those invo lved in discussions (Constable 2003:3), about Black hair. According to Bruce Mason a virtual ethnography is simply an ethnography that treats cyberspace as the ethnographic realit y (1996:4). Virtual ethnographies can involve techniques such as the monitoring of online chat rooms, blogs, online interactive interviews, focus groups, email inte ractions, or online su rveys (Constable 2003; Crichton and Kinash 2003; Hine 1998). Utilizing a multi-sited research design involves gleaning information from several different research settings. Marcus describes multi-site d ethnography as a research design best suited to exploring the circulatio n of cultural meanings, objects, a nd identities in diffuse time-space (Marcus 1995:79). Marcus outlined multi-site d ethnographic practices that, would allow researchers to investigate people, things, meta phors, plots, stories or allegories, lives, and conflicts for new and better understanding (G ille and Riain 2002; Marcus 1995:99; Marcus 1998). Following Marcus, I crafted my investig ation to include participant observation of women in beauty shops, the collection of material culture used by these women, the documentation of stories or folklore they have about hair, and an investigation of the virtual

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88 community organized around the topic of African -descended womens hair. I selected this multimethod, multi-sited ethnographic research design in an effort to create a holistic picture of African-descended womens lived experiences and e licit the symbolic meanings associated with their hair and hairstyle choice. Another aspect of my methodology involved ope rationalizing the Af rican Diaspora as a conceptual framework consisting of history, experience, and a co mmon ancestral origin. Within this framework, identity is constantly pr oducing and reproducing itself anew, through transformation and difference (Cohen 1997; Di op 1974; Gilroy 1991; Luke 2001; Palmer 2000; Simms-Hamilton 1990). Consequent ly instead of grouping my participants by my perception of their geographical, national, or political affiliations, I asked them to self identify as members of the group I called African-descended women. Subsequently, my resear ch site is defined by each individuals self defini tion as a woman of African descent. So although I generally frame my work in terms of women of African descent in the United States, I actually had research participants from all over the world. It is this global level of participation that encouraged me to classify the women as being of African descen t. I needed this gene ral non-geographically specific term because some of my participants were still physically located in Africa. But, these women in Africa, the South Pacifi c, and Europe saw themselves as being connected to women of African descent in Diasporic comm unities throughout the world. Thus I view the participants in the study as women of African descent, who ar e not bounded by nationality, political affiliations, or geography. They represent Africa, North Amer ica, Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and South America. This flexible definition of my research group also allowed me to investigate my research questions from an emic perspective, because I define myself as a member of this group.

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89 Essentially, I am what Cheryl Rodriguez calls a homegirl studying homegirls or a native anthropologist (Haniff 1985; Hastrup 1987; Hastrup 1993; Jone s 1988; Nakhleh 1979; Narayan 1993; Rodriguez 2001). Crafting an identity as a native anthropologist is tricky when you are a member of a profession where the hallmark method is to seek the native point of view, but natives are not considered valid researcher s (Harris 1999; Hastrup 1987; Kondo 1990; Schneider 1991). Native researchers face assumptions that they are inherently biase d, have easy access to the research site, and are immune to culture shock. In reality native researchers are often perceived as outsiders by members of their ow n communities. Educational level, socioeconomic background, and life experiences make the na tive a cultural outsider (Narayan 1993). So although I may be perceived as a na tive by other anthropologists, I still faced some of the same the challenges encountered in the field by non native anthropologists. Even natives are forced to prove themselves and craft identities as legitimate insiders. Natives are also faced with more complex et hical issues, because their informants may include friends, relatives, and community familiars (Hastrup 1987). The native may have more responsibilities to the research participants during and after th e research project (McClaurin 1996). My method for addressing these problem s involved systematic reflection on how my personal experiences shaped my study and acknowl edgment of my biases, values, and interests. Furthermore, to ensure my participants are pr otected, I completed the University of Florida Institutional Review Board procedur es for research on human subjects1. Moreover, I only viewed 11 The formal portion of this research began in October of 2004 with my submission of an Institutional Review Board Application at the University of Florida. Unfortunately, due to the unfamiliarity with my topic my proposal was submitted to two different reviewers before finally being sent to the chair of the department. The reviewers cited their primary concern as being that my research would be offensive to African American women. After numerous calls to the office I informed the admi nistrator that I was an African Ameri can woman and she admitted that she was also. At this point she told me that she did not understand what the delay had been with my approval because she had taken my survey for fun and passed it on to one of her girlfriends. She informed me that she would talk to the director and give him this information. I can only assume that the informati on included my race and within hours I was notified that I had been conditionally approved. The final condition was that I change three words in the

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90 myself as an assumed native because my hairstyle choice of dreadlocks and decision not to have them maintained professionally decreases my level of interaction in much of the shared beauty shop ritual associat ed with this culture. Another framework that I employed in the study was that of Black feminist anthropology. In defining myself as a Black feminist anthropol ogist, I assume the lived experiences of Black women to be valid sources for epistemological inquiry, whose e xperiences yield data and who engage in the active production of theory (McClaurin 2001). Us ing Black feminist anthropology my research questions presumed that gender a nd race are the basic organizing principles that shape the lives of women of Af rican descent. My aim was to highlight the marginalized, distorted and often invisible experience of wo men of African descent (Lather 1991; McClaurin 2001). Given the marginality of the participants my data collection procedures were designed to unmute their voices and bring their experiences out of the shadows. This was accomplished through the use of interactive di alogic interviews digital stor ytelling, ethnographic photography and film, and focus groups that required self-d isclosure to foster a sense of collaboration (Creswell 1998). My standpoint as a Black feminist, studying women of African des cent, enriches my ability to interpret and analyze the lived expe riences of Black women in the Diaspora. By documenting the existence of a cultural domain of hair for women of Afri can descent in African and in the African Diaspora, my ethnography wi ll assist future scholars in analyzing the complexities of identity formations in the African Diaspora. The stories and folklore I have photograph release form. I was instructed to change the word s, waive my right to I understand that I will not be compensated. With this change I was granted approval from the Institutional review board. This experience is interesting because up until the point that I made my race a factor in the review process my application was delayed. One could infer that the reviewers assumed that I was a n on-Black and that they were concerned about letting a nonnative into the personal space of Africa n American women. But, upon learning that I wa s an authentic African American, or a native, I was granted access to th e group. Approval of pr otocol number 2004-U-784

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91 collected so far reflect values a nd beliefs that are socially acqui red and patterned to serve women of African descent as guides for behavior. Ul timately, I question whether these stories and folklore serve as evidence of a shared cultu re among women of African descent worldwide (Mintz and Richard 1992). However, in order to fully answer this question I rely on symbolic anthropology to analyze the beliefs a nd rituals associated with hair. The major focus of symbolic anthropology is on how members of cu ltural groups perceive, experience, create, modify, and interpret ritu als and other public pe rformances in their surroundings (Carrithers 1992; Deely 1990; Dolgin, et al. 1977; Shore 19 96; Turner and Bruner 1986). Symbolic anthropology is a field that ut ilizes theories and methods for deconstructing the outward appearance of ritu als and public acts (Braarvi g and Krogh 1997; Ridington 1979). As a symbolic anthropologist I am interested in deconstructing the rituals and public acts surrounding Black hair. Symbolic anthropology is an approach th at assumes, the whole of human experience, without exceptio n, is an interpretive structure mediated and sustained by signs (Deely 1990:5). Symbolic anthropologists al so believe that culture is a multidimensional system of symbols and meanings shared by a gr oup of people (Deely 1990; Dolgin, et al. 1977). Raymond Firth, a twentieth century anthropologist, developed a methodology on how to extract meaning from a groups complex system of m eanings. According to Firth, symbolic anthropology should include the following objectives: description and analysis of symbolic acts, evaluation of the importance of those acts, elucidation of the meanings informan ts attribute to those acts, and the creation of a conceptual framework th at relates how these acts function in a particular culture (Firth 1973b).

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92 I have incorporated Firths objectives into my research methodology and subsequently my methods. Janet Dolgin builds upon Firths work and a sserts that there are two key principles governing symbolic anthropology. The first princi ple is that the only wa y to understand beliefs is to examine them within the cultural syst em from which they emanate (Des Chene 1996; Dolgin, et al. 1977). The second key principle is that people act based on their interpretations, and that symbolism assists people in making their interpretations (Des Chene 1996). Thus, symbolism is extremely important because it dire ctly influences individua l action (Dolgin, et al. 1977; Firth 1973b; Joshi 1992; Napi er 1996; Ridington 1979). Grounded by Firths objectives as a research framework and Dolgins principl es of symbolic anthropology, I selected my ethnographic methods that are described below. Methods The key questions I focused on dur ing my data collection were: Are there shared symbolic meanings that wo men of African descent associate with their hair texture and hairstyle choice? If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among women of African descent? Utilizing Firths model encouraged me to investig ate hair culture in three different settings. My first level of inquiry was descriptive. This in turn led to my inquiry into the meaning and importance of these acts to my research particip ants. Finally after gath ering the descriptions, seeking their meanings, and evaluating the impor tance of the acts, I began to formulate a conceptual framework for analyzing data that co uld document the existence of a cultural domain of hair among African-descended women (Firth 1973b). I will discuss each setting and method in detail below but the research design flowchar t (see Figure 3-1) provides an overview of the work.

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93 Research Settings Researcher as the Instrument and Initial Setting As a woman of African descen t, this research was undoubted ly influenced by the public display of my own hair (see Figure 3-2). I wear my hair in long dreadlocks that extend past my hips. I grappled with the notion th at I should cut or cover my natura l hair to avoid initially giving my participants the impression that I harbor biases either for or ag ainst their partic ular hairstyles. I was extremely concerned that women would a ssume that my true hypothesis involves proving that women who wear chemically relaxed hair are not socially conscious. To correct this perceived obstacle in the resear ch I investigated the economic a nd logistic feasibility of hair weaving techniques that would cove r my dreadlocks. Since none of the beauticians I approached were able to offer a solution, I eventually purchased a long re laxed style wig that amazingly covered all of my hair (see Figure 3-3). I planne d to don this wig during my official fieldwork outings. However, I had a difficult time separatin g my fieldwork time from my everyday lived experiences. My fieldwork spilled over into the checkout lanes at Wal-Mart, the produce areas in grocery stores, and the dressing rooms in clothing stores. Because I wear my hair in light brown dreadlocks that are approximately 43 inches long, many of my participants initiated contact with me (see Figure 3-2). Invariably women of Afri can descent begin conversations with me by asking, How long did it take for you to grow your ha ir or Is that really all yo hair? I usually think to myself, I have been grow ing hair all my life, havent you? Truthfully in the past I considered these t ypes of questions intrus ive and rude. I always wondered why other women of Afri can descent insist on characteriz ing my hair, as if it were a plant I had purchased and specially cultivated to grow to this length. Consequently in the past few years, I have concocted a litany of evasive and occasionally rude answers as responses to these frequent inquiries. I always feel as if people were asking me how long it took for my hair to

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94 gain its current length because of their fascina tion with long hair and their belief that real women of African descent are somehow genetical ly precluded from growing long hair. This belief inherently implies that my hair must be ar tificial or that I am not authentically Black. Over the years I have had numerous women and men, who were perfect st rangers, accuse me of having artificial hair because of its length. No ma tter what I might say to reassure them or how much they manipulate my hair and squint at my scalp and carefully examine each individual lock, many people leave our encounters unconvinced that my hair is authentic and indeed natural. Despite the fact that I have proudly worn artificial ha ir in the past, I found myself profoundly offended by the thought of being labele d as a wearer of an inauthentic natural hairstyle. Reflecting on the significance I obviously plac e on having authentic long hair helped me to recognize the role my hair could play in the research. I discarded my coy and negative responses along with my fifty dollar wig and began to utilize my lived expe riences as a point of entry into the research field. I developed a business card to give women my contact information and direct them to my web based surveys and experiments (see Figure 34). I also diligently collected phone numbers and contact inform ation from women who inquired about the authenticity of my hair. I began utilizing my palm pilot telephone to log these inquires and collect data from my lived experience as fi eldwork. From August 1, 2004 to April 1, 2006 164 women approached me in public and asked me how long I had been growing my hair, twelve of these women agreed to videotaped interviews with me, twenty of them participated in my focus groups, and countless others completed my online survey and online experiments. Ultimately, I was able to utilize my physical appearance as an essential component in my research because it allowed my body to serve as my initial research settin g. In this setting, my

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95 sample selection was opportunistic but I was able to make contact with participants who directed me toward my next setting, the beauty shop. Second Setting: The Beauty Shop My formal research began with my identifyi ng several local beauty shops where I could conduct participant observation. I selected beauty shops as a setting because some of the symbolism associated with hair texture and styles is still transmitted within the cultural space of beauty shops. Therefore, it made sense for me to recruit women who are actively participating in this cultural space because just being in this spac e implies that they have the cultural expertise that would aid my study. I decided to focus on th ree shops in the Columbia, South Carolina area. I selected the shops based on the most frequent recommendations I received from the women in my first setting. The first shop specialized in natural hair care. Although this shop specialized in natural hair care, they do not exclude wo men with other styles. This shop has business from clients with natural, relaxed, and weaved hairstyles. The sec ond shop specializes in braids and what could be characterized as more artistic hairstyles. They had a very small clientele of women who wore their hair in natural styles. The third shop does not specialize in particular hairstyles but I considered it a different type of shop because of the large number of services available such as massages, aromatherapy, manicures, and pedicure s. This shop also had a more economically affluent client base. As a worker in these s hops I was privy to the conversations conducted between the hair stylists and the conversations held among the clients, th eir stylists, and other women in the shops. Third Setting: The Virtual World A critical component of my res earch involved the use of the In ternet as a research setting. During the past twenty years the Internet has deve loped into an international infrastructure where

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96 people can collaborate and interact without regard for geographic location (Leiner, et al. 2003). This medium has broadened the concept of comm unity and even muddled ideas about identity as people delve into alternate egos and personas online (Butler 1993; Haraway and Randolph 1997; Miller and Slater 2000). The Internet is a nasc ent and evolving virtual geography with its own language, protocols, and socie ties (Butler 1993; Crang, et al 1999; Haraway and Randolph 1997; Miller and Slater 2000). As a means of interactio n the Internet provides people from all over the globe with alternative modes of representation and within this virtual geography there are a multitude of societies and cultures (Crang, et al. 1999; Dibbell 1994; Jordan 1999). Virtual societies have begun to mirror real geographically fixed societies in their levels of complexity (Gille and Riain 2002; Hume and Mulcock 2004). The investigation of these societies is similar to traditional ethnog raphic inquiry because, as Jordan stat es, virtual societies are marked by political, technological and cultu ral patterns so intimately connected as to be nearly indistinguishable from the real world (Jordan 1999:2). Researchers are recognizing that virtual communities are far from the 'imagined' or ps eudo communities explicated by C. Calhoun in is essay Indirect Relationships and Imagined Communities: Large-Scale Social Integration and the Transformation of Everyday Life (1991). In fact social scientists ac knowledge that these communities are real in the way that they reflec t the changing nature of human relations and interaction (Thomsen, et al. 1998). Eventually, th ese changes are going to result in a shift in ethnographic perspective for an thropological research (Gille and Riain 2002). My online research and perception of the virt ual world as a valid site of inqui ry are examples of this gradual but inevitable change. My work targeted women of African descent who have organized th emselves into groups around the concept of hair and be auty treatments. To locate thes e communities I used a search

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97 engine called Google, www.google.com which is currently the larg est database of Web pages and other documents (Barker 2006). Google allows the use of Boolean logic searches to retrieve Web pages that have been ranked by computer algorithms for relevance to my keywords. However, the Google database onl y contains links to about half of all of the Web pages in existence (Barker 2006) I also relied on a meta search engine called Kartoo, www.kartoo.com Meta search engines draw information from mul tiple search engine databases and then compile the information. Kartoos specialty lies in the programs ability to categorize the users search results into relevant concepts and sites and di splay these results on a graphical map. Combining these two types of search engines allowed me to more fully explore the virtual communities of women of African descent. Sample Selections and Descriptions All of the samples in my research were ge nerated by some form of purposeful sampling. Purposeful sampling is the general name of a set of non-random sampling techniques that allow the researcher to focus on information rich cases and sample size where the qualities are determined by the needs of the research (Pat ton 1990). There are approximately sixteen subtypes of purposeful sampling and in my work I made use of four of these techniques: opportunistic sampling, snowball sampling, criter ion sampling, and maximum variation sampling (Creswell 1998; Denzin and Li ncoln 1994; Johnson 1998; Patton 1990). Opportunistic sampling is a technique where th e researcher is encouraged to follow leads in fieldwork and pursue flexible paths that lead to data collection (Patton 1990). My sample selections in my personal setti ng and the beauty shop setting we re opportunistic. In the initial setting where I was the research instrument, I al lowed women to approach me and then I took the opportunity to invite them to part icipate in my research. I also asked them to recommend beauty shops and then I simply selected the three shop s that were mentioned most often. Describing my

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98 participants at this point in my research is difficult. During this phase of my work I did not formally collect demographic data from the wome n who approached me. However, I can say that of the 164 women whom I documented after appro aching me, 160 of them appeared to be of African descent. I did not ask the women how they perceived themselves so I can only give my observation of their group affiliation based on skin color, hair texture, and their knowledge of Black culture. When I began my participant observation, I employed snowball sampling and maximum variation to identify focus gr oup and free list exercise partic ipants. Snowball sampling is a technique that involves identifyi ng participants in the culture who can then refer you to other reliable experts and participants (Patton 1990; Schensul, et al. 1999). This form of sampling is particularly useful when you are attempting to retrieve data from populations that are difficult to define or locate. Maximum variat ion sampling involves the intenti onal selection of a wide range of variation based on predefined dimensions of interest (Maykut and Morehouse 1994). I used the hairstyles identified by my participants as the way to define my sample group. Hence I sought women to represent each of the eight main hairstyles. I structured my participant observation by asking women to play free listing games with me while they waited for their hair stylist. Free listing is a data elicitation technique that involves asking informants to make lists that represent their indigenous cultural knowledge (Schensul, et al. 1999). Collecti ng free list data is one of the basic starting points in defining a cultural domain (Bernard 1998; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003; Johnson 1998; Weller 1998). Free listing allowed me to glean definitions about hairst yles and textures from women in an effort to answer my first research ques tion which interrogates the symbol s, origin, and boundaries that constitute the symbolic meanings for hair in the African Diaspora. I r ecruited ten women from

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99 each shop to engage in these free listing exer cises via maximum variation sampling based on their own hairstyles. Thirty women were asked to provide me with a list of the different categories of hairstyles in one exercise and a list of the different hair text ures in another exercise. These thirty women also appeared to be Af rican-descended. However, I did not formally investigate their demographic details. This free listing technique helped me to craft my online survey and begin to answer my second research question of whether or not the symbolic meanings are evidence of a cultural belief domain. The free listing exercise also helped me create my interview and focus group instruments by dete rmining which hairstyles I should discuss and how I should approach the concept of different ha ir textures. Eventually, I returned to the beauty shops and requested that thirty women complete pile sorting exercises of the photographs I used in the online experiment Pile sorting is an elicitation technique that elicits judgments of similarity am ong items in a cultural domain and the attributes that distinguish between the items (Bernard 1998 ; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003). Subsequently for my research the beauty shops served as a recruitment tool for cultural experts. In order to collect data online I employed cr iterion sampling for my survey and survey experiment instruments. Criterion sampling involves selecting cases or participants that meet specific predefined parameters (Patton 1990). Focusing on women of African descent allowed me to utilize this group affiliation as the organi zing parameter for my sample. In the personal setting that I described above th is translated into a situation where I invited women of African descent who approached me in public, with questions or compliments about my hair, to participate in my online survey. I created a bus iness card that I would hand the women and a personal website that would di rect them to the online survey suite (see Figure 3-4).

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100 In the online setting I targeted one main gr oup of African-descended women and I sent an email invitation to the members of Alpha Ka ppa Alpha Sorority, In c. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, founded in 1908 on the Howard Un iversity campus, is the oldest Greek letter organization founded for and by women of African descent. Currently, this organization boasts over 185,000 college trained members in the Unit ed States and abroad (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority 2004). In this organiza tion, 63 percent of the women repor t having at least a Bachelors degree; 57 percent have a Masters degree, 9 pe rcent have a Doctorat e; and 7 percent hold professional degrees or certifi cations (Alpha Kappa Alpha Soro rity 2004). The sorority is organized into ten major regions and I specifica lly targeted the larges t South Atlantic Region, which encompasses South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I sent an email invitation to the director of the South Atlantic Region and requested that she forward my online survey information to the 103 graduate chapters and 53 undergraduate chapters under her control. I cannot gauge how many of the 156 chapters actually received this request. However, my request was probably facilitated by the fact that I have b een a member of this organization for 18 years, my mother has been a member for thirty four years and my grandmother has been a member for over sixty years. Responses to my online survey were collected anonymously however, this was the first group I invited to particip ate in the survey entitled Black hair is . . that was deployed on March 9, 2005 and by March 31, 2005 I had 76 responses. The second wave of criterion second samp ling I used for my online work involved targeting web pages that encourage online Weblogs or blogs and chats about women of African descent and hair. Blogs are websit es where entries are made in a journal type interface that may include photographs, links to other web pages, and text. All of this information is displayed in reverse chronological order so that the most recen t information is displayed first (Doostdar 2004;

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101 Goodwin-Jones 2003). Blogs have enormous pote ntial as a tool to capture fieldnotes for researchers in anthropology. The Blog can provide an electronic record th at encompasses all of the researchers experien ces interlaced with photographs, digita l recordings, and text. However, researchers will need to overcome some obstacles concerning confidentiality and ethics before proceeding with the use of th is new form of technology. When I began my project this technology was not as accessible; however, it is now readily available and relatively cheap if not free on many web spaces. I contacted Dee, the webmaster of www.Nappturality.com and requested permission to join her site as a member who was conducting social science research. Th is site is dedicated to celebr ating hairstyles that highlight the natural hair texture of women of African descen t. As a member of this website I was able to send out email invitations to the 54,216 member s through the webmaster and read chat room postings about my research topics. This was th e second major email recruitment effort that I made to collect my basic survey data. Again, I cannot be assured that all of the members received the email requesting that they part icipate in the survey. However, I ended the recruitment process with a total of 298 completed responses to th is first survey. In this survey, 98 percent of the respondents identified themselves as female; 82.55 percent said they were African American or Black; almost ten percent were fr om somewhere in the Caribbean; ten respondents or about four percent of the respondents said they were from Africa; and the remaining respondents said they were from a combination of places like Canada, Great Brittan, and South America. Fifty seven percent of the respondents we re between the ages of 18 and 30; twenty six percent were between the ages of 31 and 40; a nd only 17 percent stated that they were over 40 years of age. Interestingly, de spite the youth of the group, 53 percent said th ey earned between $30,000-$100,000 dollars per year. Thirty seven percen t of the respondents said they earned

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102 below $30,000 per year and 11 percent of thes e respondents said they earned over $100,000 dollars per year. This more economically affluent group may be the result of emails targeting the Alpha Kappa Alpha group, whose members report hi gher than average inco me and education for African American women. For my second survey, Black Hair an Experime nt, I primarily passed out invitation cards and sent emails to prior res pondents. Although, I stil l passed out business cards inviting to women who approached me about my hair to participat e in the online survey, I primarily relied on the experiment gaining momentum through word of mouth on the Internet In this survey 73 percent of the respondents were between the ages of 18 and 24, 95 percent identified themselves as being female, and the majority indicated that they live somewhere in the U.S. South. Despite this fact some of the respondents also indicated that they were from pl aces like the Fiji Islands, American Samoa, and Nova Scotia, Canada. I am sure that some of these respondents are a part of the snowball sample because they probably received email invitations from people who I came into contact with here in the United States When it came to race the majority of these respondents also said they were African Amer ican or Black but some of them identified themselves as Black Hispanics and two percen t, were Fijian, Black Native American, and Moroccan. Forty seven percent of this group identified themselves as being primarily poor or working poor with a yearly income of less than $15,000. Twenty nine percent of the respondents reported that they were working class ear ning $15,000-34,999 dollars per year, and 22 percent said they were lower or middle class earni ng $35,000-99,999 dollars per y ear. Only one percent of the respondents reported that they were ri ch because they earn ove r $100,000 dollars per year. These statistics may be linked to the fact th at only 17 percent of these respondents reported having at least a Bachelors degree and 83 percent did not have a four year college degree. Only

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103 five percent of the respondent s in this group reported having an advanced degree beyond the Bachelors. Eighty three percent of these res pondents were also single with only 12 percent reporting that they were currently married. Finally, I used the results from my free lis ting exercises and partic ipant observation to conduct maximum variation sampling as defined above for my dialogic inte rviews. I used the results from my participants free listing of hairst yles to identify eight different hairstyles as dimensions of interest. Relaxers, braids, weaves, twists, cornrows, jheri curls, short naturals, and dreadlocks were the styles that my participants identified as most salient to women of African descent. I confirmed the relevance of these dur ing my participant obser vation through questions to women about their perception and definition of these styles. Data Collection Techniques Participant Observation My formal research began when I entered th e beauty shops discu ssed above to conduct participant observation. I completed eleven mont hs of participant obser vation, averaging twenty four hours per week in three beauty shops. During th e last six months of the project, I spent all of my time in one single beauty shop. Participant observation is a form of intensive listening, observing, and interacting where you watch yourself and others simultaneously (Wolcott 1988). This form of participation is marked by the resear chers ability to be exp licitly aware of things that others take for granted, to look beyond the o bvious, to negotiate the f eeling of being both an insider and an outsider; engage in reflexive intr ospection, and to keep de tail records of their experiences (Spradley 1980). My experience as a participant observer bega n in three beauty shops and as a conference attendee at two national hair show s. In order to enter this sett ing I initially approached the owners of the beauty shops. I introduced the owne rs to my work and explained that I wanted to

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104 participate in their shops as a clean up assistan t. One of the shops accepted my offer to work as an assistant and the second and th ird shops simply allowed me to sit in the shop with my tape recorder and notepad in plain view. The latter beauty shop owners felt I would not cause any disruption in the shop because I simply appeared to be a customer working on some type of project. Often they proudly introduced me to their customers, as if my presence as a researcher validated their professionalism as stylists. In the shop where I actually worked, I answered the phone, made trips to the hair supp ly store, configured computers, fetched meals, swept the floor and escorted women back to th e shampoo bowl. I was w illing to do anything required to make myself useful to the beauty shop owner as I intruded on her space. However, because I was not a licensed beautician I could not perform any actual hair dressing tasks. All of these experiences were mediated by the fact that the women seemed to perceive me as a valid participant in this particular space. Oftentimes customers would ask me questions about my hair and what procedur e I was having done in the beauty shop. These types of inquiries created opportunities for me to ask women to comp lete my free listing and pile sorting exercises as they waited for their beautician. My particip ant observation resulted in 30 responses to each free list question. The two questions I asked were; Please write down as many words as you can thin k of to describe the texture of Black womens hair. Dont be embarrasse d to write down any term you ha ve used or heard, even if you dont agree with its use. Thank you. Please write down as many hairstyles you can thi nk of that are worn by Black women. Dont be afraid to write down names of styl es that you may not think I know. Thank you. Following Firth, these free lists were gathered to begin to describe the elements of the Black hair domain. These lists assisted me in identifying the main hairstyles a nd textures recognized by Black women. Moreover, these exercises were crafted to uncover the meaning informants

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105 attribute to hair, and assist in the creation of Firths recomme nded conceptual framework that relates how hair functions am ong women of African descent. Overall, during my work I found, as Wern er and Schoepfle predicted, participant observation in ethnography has change d and instead of investigati ng an exotic foreign culture I ended up examining the subtle and elusive cultural differences of consultants who were similar to myself (Werner and Schoepfle 1987:61). Moreover, the recognition that: modern ethnographic work has taught us that human bei ngs know little about cultures right around them, and that at least in substan tive cultural knowledge . great discrepancies may exist between next-door neighbors, motivated me to carefully document my experien ces with these women who looked like my relatives (Werner and Schoepf le 1987:68). But, I remained cognizant that the very act of participation may have influenced the experiences and reactions I encountered in my setting. In this ethnographic setting I found that the data I collected helped me to compose my research questions. The field experiences were an integral part of the study and helped me to begin the process of triangulating my data. Particip ant observation helped me to locate my initial participants for my focus groups, interviews, and online surveys. I stepped away from the method when I began inviting women to participate in focus groups. Focus Groups To further investigate my question of whether or not there are shared symbolic meanings associated with hair and hairst yle choice, I conducte d two group discussions. They consisted of eight women of African descent. Focus group interviews involve meeting with research participants and guiding them thr ough a discussion on a particular topic (Schensul, et al. 1999). My focus groups assisted me in interrogating th e social and cultural messages surrounding Black hair. Inviting women I met during allowed me to target those interested in the topic and willing to speak with me at length. I conducted these fo cus groups in a conference room at Benedict

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106 College and provided participants with light sn acks as they talked. I led the focus groups and guided women through a discussion based on a flow chart of open-ended questions. The women began calling these focus group meetings hair part ies because they felt as if the sessions provided them with a certain le vel of hair catharsis. The se ssions were emotionally charged and occasionally women would break down and cry based on both memories of pain and joy. The women reported these emotions were caused by the revelation that other women had similar experiences and feelings about their hair. The focus group also reviewed my survey questions, helped me create new questions; and helped me se lect the format and pho tographs for the hair experiment. Dialogic Interviews I conducted 27 video taped in-depth interviews with 8 women who wore relaxed hairstyles, 4 women who wore braids, 3 women who wore weaves, 3 women who wore twists, 2 women who wore cornrows, 1 woman who wore a jheri curl, 2 women who wore short naturals, and 4 women who wore dreadlocks. These interviews we re dialogic in nature meaning that both the interviewer and the participant take part in shaping the structure of the interviews (Brettell 1993; de Chadarevian 1997; Grele 1991; Morrissey 1987). The dialogic intervie w process facilitates researcher reflection and a more accurate depict ion of research participants (Crapanzano 1990; de Chadarevian 1997). Most of the interviews lasted for an hour; however on occasion they lasted several hours when women were inspired to continue discussing their beliefs in depth. My dialogic interviews also spawned the collection of what I call hair stories and hair folklore. Hair Stories as Data Hair stories are emotional narratives of my participants most vivid and memorable experiences with their hair. Sim ilarly, what I called hair folklo re consisted of warnings, myths and legends concerning the treatment of hair among women of African descent. During the

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107 interview process I would ask the wo men to tell me examples of the folklore about hair that they had heard as children or even adults. Sometimes this area of questioning would prompt the participants to tell me one of their experiences with hair. Ho wever, as a final component of my interviews I specifically requested that women tell me the first story about their hair that came to mind. Since I was videotaping these interviews of ten times women would ask to tell their stories multiple times in an attempt to give the camera the full effect. Conversely I was occasionally asked to stop the tape when women said things th at they thought were ina ppropriate or they lost their composure. The women were extremely c onscious of the video camera and this may be because, many research participants have become more jaded, and have seen enough reality TV to know that video can be used to either make them look foolish or to further their cause (Hasbrouck and Faulkner 2006:265). Th is concern for the use of their images prompted me to engage in a deeper level of self disclosure with my participants in order to earn their trust. Two research participants even insist ed that they would only particip ate if they were allowed conduct a videotaped interview of me be fore they would consent. I expl ained to my participants that although I wanted to create a documentary from the images I collected they would not end up being exploited on television or the Internet and th at, video footage and p hotographs shot in the field are used primarily for data analysis, de sign research ideation, in ternal communication of findings, and external presenta tions, conferences, and publica tions (Hasbrouck and Faulkner 2006:265). As my investigation into this vernacular cultu re expanded I became interested in how hair is viewed by women in their everyday environments This prompted me to utilize my connection to Benedict College, as a profe ssor to collect ethnographic film data from college students. Benedict College is a historical ly Black college located in Colu mbia, South Carolina. The school

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108 serves approximately 2,552 students, consis ting of 1292 females and 1260 males (Benedict 2005). At Benedict 99 percent of these students are of African descent. From spring of 2003 to spring of 2005 I allowed my three sections of introduction to sociology to complete an extra credit project called, view our hair story. This project was developed to engage the research participants following the advi ce of visual anthropologists like Jay Hasbrouck and Susan Faulkner who write that the use of ethnographic film and video s hould be a creative endeavor. In crafting these creative ethnographic film projects Hasbr ouck and Faulkner suggest that: Some examples might include arranging photo exch anges, engaging with visual collections of research participants, involving rese arch participants in the manipul ation or electronic transfer of their image, reversing the gaze, etc. In addition, strategies like these are more likely to include research participants in ways that produce much richer ethnographic e xperiences than simply snapping a photo of them (Has brouck and Faulkner 2006:268). To create these types of rich ethnographic experiences I used d igital storytelling. Students were instructed to purchase a disposable camera and take photographs of the hairstyles in their environment (see Appendix A. Digital Hair St ory Instructions). This form of digital storytelling allowed the students to express their experiences in visual and written terms. According to Leslie Rule of the Digital Storytelling Association: Digital Storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Digital stories derive their power by weaving images, music, narrative and voice together, thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to char acters, situations, experiences, and insights (Rule 2007). I asked students to tell their st ories digitally so that I would be able to explore their experience and insights about hair. The st udents were also required to co mplete a written analysis and explain their rationale for selecting the partic ular photographs. Written instructions were given the students to guide them in th eir analysis of the phot ographs and they were encouraged to think about what the hairstyles meant to them and to others in their communit y. This data can be found at the end of each chapter and is labeled digita l storytelling assignment. When the student who

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109 turned in the work wrote their names they are iden tified, otherwise they are listed as unidentified student at Benedict College. This data represen ts un-edited words of the participants as they expressed their views about the meaning of Black hair. Ultimately, the students were asked to produce their completed digital stories as a fi nal project. This process elicited over 900 photographs and statements from the 115 undergradua te students enrolled in my courses. This process was essential in my inve stigation of the personal and public meanings attached to hair and hairstyle choice because it revealed wh at women thought was important about other womens hair. This method of narrative and visual data collection provided empirical data that confirmed that African-descended women shared m eaning about hairstyles and hair textures and that these meanings could be said to constitute a cultural domain. Online Survey The World Wide Web (Internet, or Web or WWW) and electronic mail (email), have created entirely new ways in which to conduct survey and qualitative research. Online surveys can be delivered via email or enti re web pages can be created to capture data from your target population. Furthermore, focus groups can be ru n online that incorporate photographs, video, music and text to capture each participant s thoughts in an electronic transcript. In my research I initially created an online surv ey that was crafted to elicit attitudes about Black hair culture from women of African descent. Black hair is . ?, is a survey instrument that consists of fifty questions designed to furt her investigate the cultural domain of Black hair. These fifty questions include seven demogr aphic background questions, five open ended questions, six ranking exercises, seven multiple choice questions, and twenty five likert scale questions. I used an online survey tool run by a company named Zoomerang at www.zoomerang.com This company provides students with access to its zPro program for a reduced fee. The zPro program allows the us er to receive an unlimited number of survey

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110 responses, create an unlimited number of surveys, download reports to Excel, add images, logos, and external links to the surve y, send personalized email invitati ons to participants, and create your own or use their survey templates in forty languages. The survey tool also does reporting and data summary including the ability to cross ta bulate responses, filter th e responses, view the results online, and save reports. Furthermore, th e program allows the user to deploy the survey selectively by only allowing one response to come from each computer Internet address. This prevents users from completing multiple surveys at the same computer. The survey was designed with the help of my interview and focus group participants. The research participants provided cultural expertisethey read my questions, edited them for cultural clarity, and gave me suggestions for addi tional questions. Traditionally some of the key characteristics used to judge surveys have include d a review of the response rate, timeliness, data quality, and cost (Fricker and Schonlau 2002). I w ill discuss these aspects of my survey in the abovementioned order. A standard way to gauge survey performance is to review the response rate, or the number of surveys that are completed versus the number th at have been distributed. In an Internet based survey like mine it is difficult to calculate a resp onse rate in the traditi onal fashion, because there is no way to calculate how many i ndividuals received invitations to participate in my survey. However, in my research I can calculate a fo rm of response rate by evaluating the number of people who actually visited my webpage and looked at the survey versus the number of people who completed the survey. Seven hundred and twenty people visited my survey page. This page was not accessible via web searches so I can assume that these 720 people received some type of email invitation, or that they met me persona lly and I provided them with a business card inviting them to participate in the research. Out of this seven hundred and twenty people, 298

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111 provided me with completed surveys and an additional 99 submitted pa rtial responses. These numbers give me a response rate of 55percent. The Black hair is . ? survey was av ailable online from March 9, 2005 to March 8, 2006. The timeliness of the survey was not computed as it related to how quickly participants responded to my requests because the survey wa s advertised online and there was no way to track how long the particip ants took to respond to the email in vitation. However, despite the fact that this was not a primary factor in my survey, I was able to ca lculate that during the first month of deployment, from March 9, 2005 to April 8, 2005, 119 participants responded to the online survey. During the second month 147 participants completed the survey, the third month had 48 completions, 14 completions were done in the fourth month, sixteen 16 completions were done in the fifth month, and eight only surveys were done during the sixth month. Consequently at the end of six months 88 percent of the competed su rveys had been obtained. Therefore 66 percent of the completed, Black hair is . ?, surveys were obtained dur ing the first two months after I posted the survey website. This indicates that the survey was completed in a timely manner. Data quality is an issue in any online survey due to the problems with controlling coverage error, sampling error, non-res ponse error, and measurement erro rs (Fricker and Schonlau 2002). However, tracking the majority of these types of e rrors was immaterial in my research because of the nature of my sampling techni que and the fact that I was ta rgeting a specialized population who had already established access to the Internet. Accordingly evaluating the quality of my responses involved focusing on issues of item n on response, completeness of responses, honesty of responses, and the quality of transcription in to an electronic format (Fricker and Schonlau 2002).

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112 Only ninety nine participants were unable to provide me with compete responses to the survey instrument. All of these respondents fail ed to answer the ranki ng questions and provide an answer to the final open ended question about their personal hair story. Because all of the partially completed surveys stop at the same point it is highly probable that I had incomplete surveys because of some type of computer erro r during the times that these participants were attempting to complete their surveys. Another po ssibility may be that the respondents were not willing or able to rank the hairstyles. Several re spondents said they could not decide on these rankings because they wanted to list some hairst yles in two areas. However, even if these 99 respondents simply got tired and stop ped the survey at this point, th ey still answered the majority of the questions in the survey. Gauging whether participants are being honest is also an issue that any researcher may encounter with survey data. In my research seve ral of the questions were gauged to evaluate the participants honesty by asking the same question in different ways. Desp ite the fact that I explained to participants that there were no right or wrong answ ers I did attempt to ascertain whether or not they were answering consistently about their beliefs. A dditionally, these answers can be compared to the responses given during my dialogic interviews to gauge the veracity of both groups of participants. This technique added to the reliability of my data as it provided me with a way to cross-reference my interview responses with the online responses. This information gave me a broader view of Black womens beliefs about hair. Of the methods I used, participant observation, hair stories, and di alogic interviews were designed to answer my first research question about the shared symbolic meanings of hair. Whereas my pile sorting, focus groups, and experiment methods were craf ted to address my second research question about whether there is evidence of a cultural beli ef domain. This general survey provided me

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113 with insight to answer both of my research questions; moreover it spaw ned the creation of the final phase of my research a hair survey experiment. Hair Experiment The final method I employed in my research involved an online experiment. Black HairAn Experiment, was conducted online fr om October 9, 2005, to October 8, 2006. This portion of my research attempts to replicate the work of Marvin Harris, who explored the cultural domain of racial classificati ons in Brazil with a similar et hnographic experiment (1970). This method was employed near the end of my formal research in an e ffort to organize the emerging cultural domain into a visual map. Like Harris, I attempted to gauge my participants perceptions by asking them to view an image. Harris used a series of standardiz ed facial portraits that could be used to gauge the participan ts understanding of the concept of color (Harris 1970). He asked participants to group thes e facial portraits and as sign them to categories based on their perception of the faces. His work showed that a person s perceived color or race depended on what combination of facial features and hair textur es they displayed (Gravl ee 2005; Harris 1970). Following Harris techniques, I asked my par ticipants to assess portraits for certain characteristics. However, instead of relying on a drawing of a persons face, I was able to utilize photographs of a single woman who appeared weari ng different hairstyles. It was important to use the same womans face with different hairst yles in order to prevent participants from responding to changes in facial f eatures instead of hairstyle cha nges. The model appears with a standard expression on her face and the only ma jor change from photograph to photograph is her hairstyle. My participants were then asked to respond to a seri es of questions regarding their opinion of the woman based on how she looked in each of the photographs. At the end of the survey the participants were asked to a ddress questions like wh ich photograph was most attractive, most professional, most unappealing, a nd which one was most likely to be the models

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114 actual hairstyle. As a result my participants were exposed to a single face wearing a series of 12 different hairstyles (see Figures 5-17 to 5-28). My use of this method also closely follows Clarence Gravlees work. Gravlee investigated the core emic categories of color, the dimensions of semantic structure, an d the cultural model of color across age, sex, and class in Puerto Rico (Gravlee 2005). Grav lee used free lists to elicit the terms used for color and then like Harris he used facial drawings to find out which color category each face would be assigned to by his inform ants. In my experiment I address the core emic categories of hairstyles and hair texture, the dimensions of its semantic structure and the cultural model of hairstyles create d by my participants. This experi ment proved to be so fruitful that it serves as the bulk of the data used to elicit the meaning of hairstyles and textures and create the conceptual framework for the cultural domain of hair. Overall the survey, the hair experiment, and the digital stories became the centr al data collection tech niques used to answer my research questions. I returned to the beau ty shops and asked women to conduct pile sorts with the online experiment photos. The pile sorting exercise involved the use of twelve photographs mentioned previously. The participants were asked to group the photos into piles based on what the hairstyles say about the pers on. Then they were asked to give me an explanation of why they sele cted the particular piles. The instructions were, Please sort the photographs into piles based on what the type of hair style tells you about the person. There is no right or wrong answer, just be hone st. You can make as few as two piles and as many as six piles, because no photo can be alone. This exercise revealed the frequency photogra phs appeared together and thus how women viewed the hairstyles as similar or dissimilar. Conclusions In this chapter I have discussed the methodol ogy that informed my choice of methods, the ethnographic settings, the sampling techniques used, and the characteristics of my samples. The

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115 data collected using these methods are central to my being able to answer my research questions. In the next chapter I will analyze and interpret the data collected in this research as structured by my interpretation of Firths set of objectives for investigating symbolic anthropology. I will begin by discussing Black hairstyles and texture a nd their associated meanings. Then I will move on to analyze the importance these symbols are given by Black women and finally I will show how these symbols can be organize d into a conceptual framework.

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116 Figure 3-1. Research Design Flow Chart. Research Design Flow Chart Beauty Shop Setting Researcher as Instrument and Initial Setting Virtual Setting Track Number of Women who approached me about my hair Invite to participate online (description and evaluation of acts) Invite women who approach me about my hair to participate in interview research Solicit photo essays about hair from students. (Description and analysis of symbolic acts, evaluation of importance and meanin g of acts ) Track online discussion boards on hair topics at nappurality.com. Invite women to participate in online survey Conduct online survey about what Black hair is . (Description and analysis of symbolic acts, evaluation of importance and meaning of acts) Conduct online experiment about the meaning of Black hair(Description and analysis of symbolic acts, evaluation of importance and meaning of acts) Participant Observation (Seek description of symbolic acts) Free Listing& Pilesort Exercises (Identify elements of domain, analyze symbolic acts evaluate importance of acts ) In Depth Video Interviews (Description and analysis of symbolic acts, evaluation of importance and meaning of acts) Contact womens groups online and list serves to request participants for online Create Conceptual Framework from data

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117 Figure 3-2 Researcher Sybil Dione Rosado and her mother Dr Sybil Johnson of real hair Photograph courtesy of Dr. Irma McClaurin.

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118 Figure 3-3 Researcher Sybil Dione Rosado giving buena presencia (good appearance) with wig covering dreadlocks photograph c ourtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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119 Figure 3-4 Business card created to recruit research participants.

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120 CHAPTER 4 HAIR STORIES AND INTERVIEW DATA GOOD HAIR: I remember watching my Aunt Kitty, the official family beautician, who had actually trained at the lo cal beauty college when she was young; comb and brush my cousin Kathys naturally straight hair. She had good hair I had heard the women of the family say. It was long with deep waves ending in a tangle of soft curls at the end. I wondered why her hair was so different from mine. I wondered why she smiled and talked softly to me while her hair was groomed, like a proud horse being brushed by his loving owner. Long sweeping brush strokes, gentle plating, only one or sometimes two of those parts that I hated so badly separating th e hair into great masses of soft easily manageable sections which would sometimes be secured with bright ribbons or a rubber band, allowing the hair to fall to her waist like the tails of twin ponies. I soon learned that good hair represented beau ty and freedom. Kathy could quickly run out and play and was sometimes even allowed to d o her own hair! She wa s only a little older than me it seemed, but my hair even t hough I thought it was strong, was considered bad by the rest of the family, and the rest of the world, as I was soon to learn. Unlike Kathy, my hair had to be tamed by a trainer the reins pulled taught before I could be released into the fields to play. The center pa rt and rubber bands were reserved for special occasions and on those occasions, the clumps of hair stood stiffly, on either side of my head. Instead of looking like Kathys twin ponies running in the wind, my hair looked more like sticky cotton candy puffs at the school Halloween carnival. Mama had good hair too. It wasnt as good as Kathys but it was better than mine. Moreover, it was long, very long for her skin color, and this was a very important aspect. According to her she only let Aunt Kitty straig hten it a little with the hot comb barely warm because she wanted to, not because she had to. She could simply just wash it and go if she wanted to, but she was a professional lady and needed to look pr esentable! I began to understand that presentable meant looking mo re like White people. Bad hair was bad because it didnt look like White peoples hair. Soon I learne d that Kathys hair was good because her daddy was an Italian man that we didnt know. My da ddys hair was good too, and I wished I had gotten some of his ha ir instead of the forest of thickness that covered my head. Why had Kathy gotten hair like her daddy and not me? I felt cheated! Why was mamas hair better than mine? Of ten I thought about how the goodness of their hair made them somehow better and more supe rior than me. Except for her hair, she was just a plain skinny girl, I c ouldnt understand why, but I knew that everyone looked at Kathy like she was extra special. I, on the othe r hand was just ordinary. Long flowing hair was to be envied and desired. Boys wanted to touch her hair and gi rls hated her for having it. Suddenly it became apparent to me that being presentable and beautiful was all connected to the goodness or badness of hair Hair was the single most important determiner of becoming presentable. So if I wa nted to be presentable I would have to allow my hair to be pressed into submission, in order to achieve the ultimate level of acceptability and success. The texture of my hair unlike anything else about me was mutabl e and must somehow change from its natural unacceptable state into a relaxed and acceptable shape. It must be

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121 somehow be set free from the bonds that held it, it must be allowed to swing when I turned my head like the White girls at school and lik e Kathy. At that reckoning I was at last introduced to my first perm, and I welcomed the change with open arms! My hair could now appear, at least for a while to be not itself but a thing of beauty. When my mother told me about the appointment I was so excited. The permanent chemical straighter would be applied by a real professional in a license d salon. Not in the kitchen by Aunt Kitty with the trembling hands whose reputation for burning ears and various other body parts with her red hot iron weapons name d hot combs and curlers, was legendary. These ingot like weapons had been fired in th e ancient ovens of ol d and sheathed in a White towel bearing the battle scars of several scorch marks. They were hidden carefully in the kitchen drawer. That drawer which re mained untouched until time for the ritual would begin. Hidden with the weapons we re the curling wax and pressing grease, essential ingredients for a su ccessful fry job. (Johnson 2006) Exploring the Shared Meanings of Hair: Rituals, Symbols, and Beliefs Investigating the iconography of ha ir reveals that not all hair transmits the same messages. Hairstyle and hair texture both hold multiple mean ings that vary based on who is viewing the hair. The hair story at the begi nning of this chapter was collect ed from Dr. Sybil Johnson, and it documents some of the symbolic acts associated with hair that are important to a woman of African descent. The symbolic rituals she engage d in as a child are still poignant memories for her as an adult. This story is c onnected to a series of stories co llected from her and the women in her family, who all participated in the same hair rituals. Despite the fact that these incidents occurred over thirty years ago, they still formulate the basis of her beliefs about hair and hairstyles among African-descen ded women. It is important to note that her memories and experiences are not isolated events. Following Firth, who recommended that symbolic analysis begin with a description and anal ysis of symbolic acts, this chapter is organized around the survey participants descriptions of the rituals, symbols, and beliefs th ey have about hair.

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122 Hair Rituals Ritualized Pain Makes You Beautiful! The type of socialization ritual s that Dr. Johnson describes at the beginning of this chapter are repeated when Respondent number 77 recounts how getting her hair done made her feel about herself: I remember sitting in the stylist's chair one day, getting my hair done for a class photo. The perm was BURNING like no tomorrow. I've asked her to rinse it out twice. My grandma is there and won't say anything, so the perm st ays on my head, burning. And I'm crying. And the stylist tries to soothe me by saying "Y ou want to be pretty, don't you?" Tears are streaming down my face and I'm thinking "If this is the price to pay, then I don't want to be pretty." I'd never felt so angry, nor so ugly. This hair story is evidence of the ritual of pain and endurance that seems to be an integral factor in Black hair culture. For women in this cultur e the ability to acquire beauty is contingent upon ones pain threshold. Respondent 77 internally re nounces her desire to be pretty, but notice that she does not make this statement out loud to her grandmother or her stylist. Even as a child she has already learned that it is una cceptable for her to complain about the pain associated with her hair. Her experiences are sh ared by respondent number 89 who told me this story: I remember my 1st relaxer, My aunt put it in while we were in her kitchen. The minute it started burning, I let her know it was burning an d she kept saying I'm almost finish baby, and you gonna look so pretty. Well after it was ri nsed, dried and curled I really thought I was pretty but I had a head full of burns. When examining the hair stories recounted by my participants the theme of pain being inextricably connected to beauty kept em erging. These women learn through the rituals associated with hairstyling that pain is e xpected and should be silently endured. When respondent 59 discusses the hair rituals she expe rienced with her mother and sisters she also relates a story of beau ty and pain. She says, I vividly remember having my hair straightened by my mother. My sister and I only went to the beauty shop on special occasions, usually Christmas, Easter, or funerals. Having my hair straightened was a painful proc ess that resulted in burned ears and neck, if

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123 I didnt sit perfectly st ill, and crooks in my neck if I did. My mom used Long Aid with K7 that was supposed to prevent my hair fr om reverting to its naturally kinky state. Similar stories of pain and beauty were reported by respondents number 32 and 79. Respondent 32 says, My hair story would be when I attended coll ege in the 80's a lot of the young ladies were trying to get bone straight hair, because that was the popular thing, well the trick was to use a SUPER relaxer, well every morning I would wake up and wonder why I would see so much of my hair shedding on the pillow, ev entually I learned that I was slowly burning out my hair, and let me not forget the pain I endured with letting the relaxer sit for a long period of try to achieve this task, only to have a severely blistered and pussed scalp but still I endured because I wanted bone straight hair. Whereas respondent 79 states, I remember crying every time I had to have my hair washed and hot combed as a child. I would try to find any reason to get out of having it done. Usually, I could avoid it for a month or so. But eventually, my mom would wr estle me down and wash my hair. She was infamous for being impatient to hurry up and straighten it since it was such a chore. Usually, there was still moisture present and the straightening comb would sizzle and burn as it passed through my hair. Although my mom was a wonderful mother, I remember she would treat my hair like the enemy and my tears would not keep her from battling the enemy into submission. I usually left the k itchen with red eyes and a burnt scalp and earlobes. By the time the scabs would fall off, I was again forced to use the usual diversionary tactics to ke ep away from THE COMB. Overall, the association of pain and beauty are common themes reported by my research participants. Moreover, a careful review of my own hair stor y also reveals this theme: As much as I enjoyed the soft warmth of my mothers embrace, and squeezing as close as possible to her to smell her sweet odor and feel her soft skin against mine, and climbing into bed with her when the night was too scar y; it was never a pleasant occasion when she called me over to her to do my hair. My earliest memories include being held fast between her strong knees, squirming and whining like a like a hurt puppy. I was overwhelmed with utter helplessness. The sme ll of Royal Crown poma de hung in the air as she slid fingerfuls of hair onto the perfectly drawn parts, she called them. These almost artistic lines formed an intricate patchw ork design, creating orde r within the thick unruliness that was my hair. They must be never crooked but al ways straight, which sometimes required second and third painful tr ies. The endless parade of braids were pulled and drawn tightly, lifting my scalp with them as they stood at atten tion across the battlefield. You see, my hair like me was strong; It resist ed being pulled and pushed into submission! It didnt like being fo rced to sit quietly and behave This was war! A battle of will. This was the microcosm of a war that I woul d continue to fight for the rest of my life.

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124 This was my will against the way of the world. It all began then as I fought for my right to disagree with the taming of my hair. My sweat and tears blended with my opponent s until my knee shackles loosened and I began to slide, almost escaping only to be ca ught again by small strong hands which, when slapped against my arm, or thigh could meta morphose into pincers, a formidable weapon which stung worse than any bee. The battle continued, with each small triumph followed by utter defeat. After what seemed like hours, the voice of the General rang out. Dione, be still or Ill give you something to cry a bout! She would say this, resonating in a high pitched voice that pierced my skin like onl y her angry words could. She didnt understand that she was already giving me something to cry about. After all she was only doing what her mother and grandmother had done for he r. In the midst of my cries of agony my grandmother or some other adult would some times interject, that girl tenderheaded, and my mother, still a teenager, trying to a ssert her own woman-hood, would insist that I was not tenderheaded! As if that particular ailment was tantamount to being somehow imperfect. She wanted me to be perfect and th at meant my hair, like my behavior, had to be well managed and controlled! After her retort I would feel the tension ease in her knees a nd feel her hands relax trying not to hurt me even though she wanted the onlooke rs to believe that she had not taken their advice. It was our secret, like many we woul d come to share. She would speak bending down and, turning my ear to her lips in her soft voice am I really hurting you baby? She couldnt imagine how I could be in pain. This was just a rite of passage, a necessary level of suffering required of all little Black girl s with strong hair. I would answer, nodding my head through my tears, and those little hi ccups that come when you have cried much too long, yes mommie it hurts. She would relax even more a nd try her best to make the experience less painful. I woul d smile inside. Even though it st ill hurt I would soften my cries and stop my squirming, after all I rea lly was tender-headed, no matter how strong my hair was. So, this is where I first lear ned how to act strong (Johnson and Rosado 2006). It is important to note that pa in is a component of the hair care ritual for Black women not only when chemicals are used, but also when braiding, washing, and combing occur. For example, respondent 113 says: Once I let my aunt twist my hair in two-strand twist with fake hair. She did the twist so tight that my head hurt for a week. She did all this, because she didnt like my hair in natural hair braids. Since my hair is natural and stronger than her permed hair my hair recovered from the incident. She ho wever went bald in the front. Thus merely manipulatin g the hair into twists seems to create a painful experience for this respondent. But, even washing can produce simi lar experiences for women. Respondent number 154 discusses how just washing her hair crea ted anxiety for her as a child. She says,

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125 I hated wash day as a child. It was the day I was yelled at the most and tortured the most because of my natural nappy hair. Getting a re laxer was pain full too, but it only happened once a month so wash day became 3/4 more bearable. For years I lived through what I thought was necessary pain. It was the one day a month I prepared for two weeks in advance and recovered from one week later. Hitting my head so I wouldn't scratch and hiding in the house so I wouldn't be seen. Hair Rituals=Happiness However, pain is not the only emotion associ ated with the hair ritual, and many women reported the festive nature of the hair combing ritu al they participated in with their mothers. An example of this type of positive experience can be found in respondent 86s statement, I remember when I was a child, getting your hair done was like a holiday or something extra special like that. I would be so excited to come ho me from school or wake up to any given Saturday morning to have all of my aunts and cousins come over to my house to get there hair done. I couldnt wait for my turn. Id sit between an aunts legs and get my hair braided or curled. It w ould be a grand affair. Similarly, respondent 172 says that, Something I remember about my hair was my pressing comb days. I had very thick coarse wavy like hair. It took about an hour and a half to two hours just to straighten it. Then as soon as I would walk outside it would frizz up. I hated th at. My hair was so unmanageable. When I was about ten years old my beautician decided to give me a relaxer so I could manage my hair better. This was th e best thing that could have ever happened to me. My hair never fell out actually it grew even longer and it was so manageable. I didnt have to worry about pulling all my hair out because it was so tangle. I thank God everyday for relaxers because of it my hair is more manageable. It has nothi ng to do with trying to be White, but it has every thing to do with being able to manage my hair. It seems as if the ritual of perming or relaxi ng hair for respondent number 172 was a pleasurable experience that she equated to helping her manage her unruly hair. Her happiness is not associated with what she perceives as attempts at assimilation, instead it is based on the freedom she experiences being free from tangled and unmanageable hair. Respondent 68 also reports fond memories of her hair rituals when she says, My hair is very course and wire-ry. I have 3-4 textures and it grows like crazy. I used to sit in the kitchen on Sunday mornings befo re church and dread the times when my grandmother, I call her gran-gran, had to press my hair. That comb was so hot, and my ears could not take it. she would set the old Black comb on the gas range for some time, wipe it

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126 down with a paper towel to remove excess oil and hair, and take it through my kinks. This of course was not a quick process, but after it was down, I looke d good, gran-gran thought so at least. I miss that Sunday ritual. I have gone through my perm day as child and my Black pride stage with one true understanding. Our hair is only as beautiful as we are, as a whole. If we spend more time loving ourselv es, our individuality will surface and we will begin the process of creating and developing our own perfection. By the way, I am getting a perm after 7 years, and it will be as beautifu l as my afro, locks, and twists. Much love and thank you for creating this survey. It seems as if for respondent number 68 the hair ritual was painful, but this pain is mitigated by the pleasure associated with being groomed by her grandmother. This participant has gone through several hairstyles ranging from relaxed to natural styles and lik e respondent number 172 she sees her hair as a beautiful expression of pers onal identity. Thus, evaluating these hair stor ies reveals that on one level ha ir is symbolic of both pain and pleasure for women of African descent. Many times the actu al ritualistic procedures are painful but the experiences with other females prove to be rewarding and memorable. These rituals and the spaces they take place in fost er intimacy, female bonding, and a formal induction into Black womanhood. As such I suggest that we consider these rituals as integral components of identity construction for women of African descent. It is within these rituals that young Black women craft their sense of identity and self worth (hooks 1989; hooks 1992). Given the importance of these rituals it seemed fitting to examine the symbolism associated with hair as reported by my respondents. Hair Symbols Hair as a Signifier of Racial Difference Throughout the hair stories I collected from women, hair texture a nd hair length envy was a common theme. For example respondent number 6 to my hair survey entitled, Black hair is . says, When I was growing up in New Jersey, predom inately Puerto-Rican and African American community, I remember going to school and kids making fun of me and telling me that I

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127 was not Black or Puerto Rican and they would pull my hair and tell me that I was different and that I could not relate to them because I wasn't neither Black or Puerto Rican, this experience affected me because it confused me, especially when the Black girls would pull my hair and tell me that I was not pretty a nd I better not think I'm pretty because I was ugly. I don't know if the pulling of my hair was a reaction of violence or some sort of denial I'm not sure all I know is that it ma de me feel unaccepted and alienated. Today I question why when I walk around campus, Black females always look at my hair first and then my face and keep walking (not all do this but quite a few) This childhood memory reveals how hair functions as a way to identify this woman racially and socially. Her peers from both ra cial groups excluded her based on her hair texture and length. Despite the fact that her skin co lor marked her as being of African descent, her hair texture and hair length served as a way to ex clude her from this group. While her hair texture hair may have excluded her from being perceived as African Amer ican her inability to speak Spanish may have excluded her from being accepted as Puerto Ri can. Similarly, respondent number 57 said, Growing up I was identified as a Black girl who had abnormally long hair for a Black child. I can recall being out with my mother and people would stop to run their hands through my hair. At the time my hair looked like a cross between Chaka Khan and Diana Ross. Many people would ask my mother and my self if my father was White or what was I mixed with. My mom would tell people that I was full Black. At one point I asked my mom if I was different and why did people talk about my hair so much? She told me that not everyone has the length and thickness of my hair and that is why people would ask questions as it was something different. My mothers father was Black and her mother was half Black and half White. My fathers mo ther was Black and his father was of East Indian descent. So as a result I got a combina tion of the length and te xture of both of their hair types. It wasnt until I got a little older that people would then ask why I had an East Indian last name when I clearly looked Black. At that tim e as I approached my teenage years and went into high-school many guys would call me horseha ir or call me weave head. Mostly Black males would question if my hair was real bu t eventually I would even have White and Chinese guys questioning the authenticity of my hair. There were a lot of times where I had low self esteem & wanted to just cut off all my hair so that no one would question my race and naturalness of my hair. I eventually got to the point to realize that there are always going to be people in the world who will make ignorant comments and think that the only way someone of African descent can have long hair is through synthetic means. I am now 26 years old and have since learned to accept who I am instead of hiding w ho I am in an effort to avoid being called fake.

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128 Again reviewing respondent number 57s story rev eals how hair texture can to symbolize race and what she calls authentic group membership. Th is woman was ostracized because of her hair texture, it was used to determine her identity for her by other people of African descent. These narratives support the thesis that hair texture and length are powe rful symbols that Black women use to evaluate each other and authenticate group membership. The story was similar when Sili Recio, of the Dominica Republic re sponded to the survey and said: Also the term "grea" is used for my kinks ;-). It is highly derogator y, kind of like nappy is here. And, I can't tell you how many times pe ople in my own family (in-laws and such) refer to my hair as that in order to remind me that I am not like them (though I've never said I was) and basically using the term as a slur. Of course, I knew to start taking these terms as a slur when my mother felt the need to explain to anyone that would listen that my hair (like me) was mixed and that really only half of my hair "needed" relaxing. This was another reason why I didn't wear my hair cu rly until after I was in college and found the social acceptance to show others that my blac kness (whether they liked it or not) was part of who I was. The other term is "jaba" which classifies me as a light-skinned girl with kinky hair. Of course, if my hair was NOT ki nky, I would be cat-called in the streets as "rubia" meaning blonde regardless of the actual color of my hair but stating that blonde and straight is "good". Of course, when I st raighten my hair, it's anybody's guess what the cat call will be. If I'm walking with my sist er, it's jaba for me and morena for her. Sili and her sister are clearly racially marked by th e texture of their hair. She remains jaba, while her sister with more kinky hair and a slightly browner complexion becomes a morena. Another poignant example of this reality can be s een in respondent number 51s statement, In elementary school another Black girl came up to me and asked me what race I was. I said "Black." She looked at my hair and sa id, "Do you have Indian in you?" I said "Yes." She said, "Oh, you're not really Black." This childhood memory provides a clear statem ent about how Black women interpret hair texture. Respondent number 51 was specifically excluded from authentic race membership by another child. This socializati on technique can be found in ma ny of the stories that women related to me. Repeatedly, the proverbial line was drawn between racial groups by children in elementary and high school settings, based on ha ir texture and hair le ngth. Therefore based on

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129 the data collected in this research hair texture an d lengths seem to be used as signs that signify racial affiliation. Good-n-Bad Hair The perceptions about the relationship between racial identity a nd hair texture are translated into notions of good and bad hair. As I have discussed previously good hair has been defined as being straight with less curls and ki nks and bad hair is kinky and coiled (see Figure 41). This dichotomy is racialized when we reali zed that good hair is most often associated with not being of African descent and bad ha ir is associated with Blackness. Respondent number 84 discusses her memory of having bad hair when she says, I remember having a big bushy head of hair that if pulled it went to the middle of my back. I grew up in the military so almost ever yone was mixed. I would get teased about my texture and people all me Rudy Huxtable. I hated it. Since I wasn't one of the kids w/ "good hair" a lot of boys didn't li ke me for that and for not be ing "a red bone". So I would come home crying for a perm. My mother finally broke down and gave me one at age 10. When I moved to another place I was accepted and was really popular because I had long hair. I hid behind the perm quickly covering up any kind of new growth until I was 18. Respondent 84 outlines her position as having been placed in both the bad and good hair categories. Here we see how having good hair grants the wearer social advantages and not having good hair puts her ad a so cial disadvantage. When her hair was not relaxed she was on the bad hair side, but once she cajoled her mother into the perm she was given entry to the good hair category by her peers. This change in her soci al standing or social capital is evidence of the power hair has among African-descended women. Good hair or the approximation of good hair grants the wearer social and cultura l capital that can be used to ga in entrance to a host of social activities and possibly economic capital. Another example of how the good and bad ha ir line can be traversed is given by respondent number 137. She posted this poetic narra tive about the times when her hair has been good versus the times when her ha ir has been bad. She writes,

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130 Peace and Blessings, Below is a story I posted on a yahoo natural hair group regarding my hair experience. Hope you enjoy . .LOL Ooooooh you went there. You're taking me with you! O.K. Here's my story. GOOD HAIRI was raised by my grandmother who among other jobs worked part time in her home as a beautician. She maintained my hair, VAIN MOMENT ALERT!-----from birth to puberty and my hair looked like the princess in Eddie Murphy's Coming To America movie. You know the one Arf! Arf!. Yep my hair was natural, thick, long, Black and so on!. BAD HAIRBut I hit puberty and developed an unhealthy self esteem complex because I didn't look like the lead in Vanity Six! (God the things you'll say over the internet. O.K. I was 11, it was the 80's, everyone was in love with Michael Jackson for God's sake! (give me a break!) So I begged and got a perm! That thinned out my hair year after year until college. My hair was long, but stringy, ( you know how you pull the back and say "See its still got length!). Yep! That was me! Then . GOOD HAIRI chopped it all off!. Yes! Teeny Weeny Afro! I didn't look bad. I washed it and felt so free, I wanted to si ng! But, my mother said to me "Girl ain't no man gonna want ya with no hair. And it's kinky too!" And I'm goi ng . um . mo m.. You gave it to me. But you ain't supposed to talk back to yo ma ma and I almost got back slapped. I was 19. I'm from the South O.K.? Soooo BAD HAIRI was in DC (at Howard University; philosophy major-sort of). Many African women were just creating a boom in the brai ding industry. But, O.K. love my sisters, however rule #1 if the woman about to do your hair has none in the front . That's A SIGN! Of course I let her do my hair. I was 19. Rule #2 if African women start laughing at your hair before they began styling it . That's A SIGN! Of course, I ignored them and waited patiently for them to pull my skin out of my scalp into a lovely style that hurt so bad, I cut all of it out my head because I was beginning to see stars my head hurt so bad! Soooo GOOD HAIRI went to see a professional who hooked me up. I wore individual bob braids for 4 months until all at the same time, I was proposed to, got married and discovered shoulder length beau tiful cotton hair. I wore my hair in a cornrowed twisted chignon that I designed myself, got many comp liments on and it required no extensions or trips to anybody's salon. BAD HAIRSOOO after marriage, I got pregnant 4 months later and my hair began to talk back to me during my first pregnancy. What it had to say wasn't nice. Something like can you please wash me? I was too sick to notice. Until . GOOD HAIRThe midtrimester glo . and so on. Ever since then my hair and I have made peace with each other. And my crowning glory is no longer a struggle. So, the passage from respondent 137 reveals that her personal ideas a bout good and bad hair are related to numerous factors. In her youth she acknowledges her pe rception of good hair as being long and straight like a princess. But, then she also recognizes her own pathology when she admits to desiring hair like Vanity 6. In both of these situations the hair textures and styles are

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131 similar but the way she felt about those symbols ha d changed. Her story really is an explanation of how she transformed her own perception of good and bad hair away from the meanings she learned in African American hair culture. However, this concept of good and bad hair moves beyond personal settings and into the public arena when women begin to compliment each other for what is perceived of as good or long hair. Moreover, the social capital associated with having good hair results in women being viewed and treated differently because of thei r hair texture and lengt h. Respondent 60 discusses her disappointment with this fact when she says: I recently received a compliment on my hair. The Sister said, "Your hair is so pretty. If I had good hair, I'd want it to look like yours". My response, "Thank you for the compliment but I don't believe in the term "good hair". We come in all shapes and sizes and none is good or bad". The Sister said, "You know what I mean". I said, "Yes, unfortunately I do. You've bought in to the White man's version of good and bad". I find this to be a common sentiment among our Sisters. No matter how we sport the natural, braids, cornrows, or locks to express our sense of style, that good/ bad thing continues to prevail. It makes me very sad. When I was a kid, getting my hair shampooed was always a painful process. My mother had bone straight silky hair and did not know what to do with my hair that had a kink to it and tangled as it dried on its own. Sh e didn't know of blow dr ying or rollers back then and had never used oil or grease to tame her own hair. Thank God for the invention of Alberto VO5 and Clairol's Hair So New. The application of either made the kinks melt away and the comb out process so much easier and less painful. Another example of the good versus bad hair di chotomy is found in an excerpt from one of the digital hair stories collected from Ryan Santoo, one of my st udents, who interviewed a girl named Nashini Khan (see Figur e 4-2). Mr. Santoo says, Nashini has been growing her hair for a little over five years. Her hair texture is not similar to a person of African-American heritage. Her heritage is also distinctly different and she considers herself as colored rather than Black. She is constantly being paid compliments by males and females alike on her pretty hair. Interestingly we see that Nashini does not consid er herself to be Black and that she prefers the term colored. This may be related to the fact that Nashini is from Trinidad where the Black-White racial dichotomy is differe nt. However, as a student at a historically Black college her

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132 perception of herself as colored does not preven t her from benefiting from the social capital granted to her by her hair text ure and length. As Mr. Santoo point s out she is, constantly being paid complements by males and females alike on her pretty hair because she is still participating in African American culture. Nashini s hair is symbolically pretty because it does not appear to be kinky and this type of hair is usually held up as an example of good hair. The socialization concerning good and bad hair that occurs in school often influences how young girls feel about themselves and interact w ith their mothers. For example respondent 198 revealed that the pressure she experienced at sc hool concerning her hair made her ask her mother for a straight or good hairstyle. She writes, My mother didnt let us perm our hair when we were growing up. I liv ed in Atlanta and I went to small Afrocentric schools and the chil dren there hair locks, braids, and twists. When I moved to Memphis, I was in a city where people didnt believe natural hair was beautiful at all. The kids at my school didnt think so, anyway. My sister and I were teased for having natural hair. We were called African Booty Scratchers. I cried and cried trying to convince my mother to let me get a perm. Finally she allowed me to get a perm! I was so happy. I remember getting my first perm. My cousin who was in beauty school did it. She sat me down in a chair. I wasnt use to that, I was use to getting in between my mothers legs. Well, I sat down in a chair and watched her put something chemically potent in another bottle and stir it up. I couldnt believ e that it was about to go in my hair. When my perm was done I was so happy that my hair wa s straight. But, I was really sad that a lot of my hair fell out and a lot of the beautiful thickness was relaxed right out of my head. Respondent 198 shows how a parents attempt to instill a positive imag e about natural hair can be thwarted by a childs interaction with he r peers at school. Until her family moved to a new social setting she was content with having natural hair, but since her new social group did not support natural hair she quickly asked for changes to be made in her appearance. Her self perception was negatively impacted by her interaction with this new social group until she could conform to their beauty standards. These types of standards form the basis of much of the symbolic socialization that occurs among African-descended women. Furthermore, women are

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133 granted access to social rewards or social capital based on their abil ity or inability to conform to the Black beauty ideal. Symbolic Socialization and Social Capital While investigating the shared meanings asso ciated with hair I f ound that much of the meaning and importance was transmitted through seemingly innocuous socialization activities and interactions. African-descended women learn what hair means and how important it is, not only from their mothers and peers but from a host of strangers who arbitrarily take part in this socialization exercise. For exam ple respondent number 202 admits, I was running in a political election, and at the time wore dreadlocks. Most of my letters or phone calls, had nothing to do with my political position, but my hair. Other Black women telling me I needed to get a perm. I was surprised, but it was my first realization of the emphasis we put on hair. So instead of focusing on her political platform other African American women were actively engaged attempting to re-sociali ze respondent number 202 into a presentation of good hair. This theme of intra-group monitoring is a prevalen t topic and respondent number 97 reports that throughout her life women have appr oached her in attempts to tell her how to manage her hair. She writes, Wow, so many so tough to choos e. Probably the thing I rememb er most about my hair is being made fun of when I wo re it natural as a young person. Th e theme of my "hair life" seems to be so many people (mainly other Afri can American women) telling me "All that pretty hair, and you just don't know what to do with it . Why don't you get a relaxer???" Then, I would always give in, a nd start trying to fl at iron or relax it, which never really "worked" because my hair was resistant to the relaxer, so it would end up damaged and half straight. Unfortunately not all of these encounters are benign and sometimes they are reported to be rude and upsetting. Respondent number 141 writes, I was buying a hair piece, a fake afro puff, at the hair store. My hair was out-kinky, full, long and glorious. Two women approached the c ounter with their hair permed within an inch of its life. The edges were beaten b ack from years of braids and tight pony tails. They'd both slicked their hair into a pony tail with no more than 1/2 inch hanging out of

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134 the band. One of the girls looks at my afro puff and says to the other, loud enough for me to hear, "That is not cute! I would not put that ugly nappy hair in my head." I laughed because this "ugly nappy" hair was already in her head. If she would let it go, stop perming and straightening, it would grow and give her the length she st ood in line with a Beverly Johnson wig trying to purchase. Instead of producing laughter from the responde nt this scene might have been, a not so subtle attempt at shaming responde nt 141 into social compliance. By stating that the hair she was purchasing, which was very similar to th e hair on her head, was ugly and nappy these women were actually attempting to make her reconsid er her entire choice of hairstyle. I think the respondent understood that they we re not just saying that her purchase was ugly; they were calling her own hair ugly! An even more disturbing reality is revealed by the story respondent number 191 tells me. She says, I was in a shop in Miami and the people were from the DR. They were working on my hair, pre lock times, and they were talking about how nappy my hair was in Spanish. My boyfriend, he is Cuban, came in and sat down to wait for me and they did not know he was with me. They kept talking and he got up and said lets go! I was in the middle of getting my hair blown out. Because they really know ho w to blow your hair st raight and I did not want to miss out, I protested. He got really mad at me and went outside. I let the girl finish and then I went outside and got in the car. He asked me was I happy with my hair and I said yes. He said he hoped so because the women had been saying that I had nappy hair like a monkey and that the hair on my head wa s as nappy as pussy hair. I got so mad but I was embarrassed that I had let the woman finish my hair. I had also tipped her to boot. This story illuminates the nega tive stereotypes associated w ith having nappy hair and how the social hierarchy is structured around hair texture. I contacted this respondent and she explained to me that having grown up in Miam i, she speaks Spanish and the women did not know this because she is African American. She says that she caught the comments about her hair being nappy, but the sound of the blow dryer had prevented her from hearing the comments that were being made by the other women in the shop. Moreover, she admits that she had, in part, assented to being demeaned by these women b ecause she knew that Dominican women have the reputation for being the best at bl ow drying hair absolutely strai ght. So she had ignored the fact

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135 that they were referring to he r hair as nappy, which for her has negative connotations. However, she did not consent to having he r hair being compared to a mo nkey or certain not someones pubic hair. Additionally, the African-descende d Dominican women sh e was patronizing had assumed that because of her hair texture sh e was from a different social background which would preclude her from being attached to the Cuban man who had clearly accompanied her to the shop. In this small experience with othe r African-descended women she was denied the social status and capital they would have otherwise afforded he r had her hair been straight; because her skin was as light as theirs. Research participant Tonya Hatton sheds more light on this type of situation when she says: I think that hair means more to African Amer icans than anybody else. I feel more pressure from my own people than I feel from outside concerning my hair. The looks the stares or whatever comes more from us than an outside race. Uhm I dont think it would be an issue if I went to work with locks or went to work braided and worked with an all Caucasian or Asian or whatever have you st aff versus me working with a complete African American staff. If I went there a fade or a short do it w ould not mean as much to them as it would to the Black staff. I think in some ways we feel that processed hair is more acceptable. We put the pressure on ourselves I think versus out side society. I think there is some there but not as much as we put on ourselves. I dont know why that it but that is just the way I feel [interview with aut hor February 2005]. All of the experiences recounted by the research respondent s should begin to illustrate the importance hair has for African-descended women. However, some of the women submitted hair stories that speak directly to the importance of hair. Why Hair Really Matters Some women said that their hair did not really matter to them, but when presented with the interview question that asks them how they woul d prepare for a trip away from home and all known beauticians, many women balked at the id ea. Some women gave accounts about how they would pack an entire bag full of hair care products for the tri p, and several women said they probably just would not go [Carol interview with author March 25, 2005]. It is important to note

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136 that these are some of the same women who initia lly stated that hair was not that important to them! One example of this phenomenon can be observed when research respondent number 165 says, What I remember most about my hair when I permed are the scalp burns I got. I remember one time it took 2 months for my scalp to comp letely heal. I also remember how panicked I felt when I moved to Norway and discovered that relaxers were almost impossible to get. I spent hundreds of dollars and traveled 2 to 3 hours to have my hair done. She admits that maintaining hair in the require d symbolic form is important enough to her that she spends hours and hundreds of dollars to achi eve the appropriate hairstyles. Yet, she is not alone in her quest for symbolically a cceptable hair. Respondent number 125 says, Almost every year for the last 7 years I've cu t off all of my relaxed hair, let it grow out, gotten frustrated due to style limitations a nd relaxed it again. This has primarily been because I've lived in Asia for several years, could not do my own hair once it passed the short afro stage and couldn't find anyone to do it for me. I got tired of the afro but couldn't think of anything else to do w ith it due to the length. Right now I live near Chicago, and there are really good hairdressers that are working with me to grow out my relaxer and style my natural hair. I met a Korean girl from Chicago while I was in Egpyt. I'll never forget her comment, "My family has been able to make a lot of money (selling Black hair products) because Black women hate their hair." So respondent 125 points out that even though so me Black women may sa y that hair is not important their purchases indicate that it is very important. Bl ack hair care is a billion dollar industry that relies on the sale of relaxers, oils, human and synthe tic hair, and an assortment of other products that promise to exte nd the length of African hair. Yet, hair and hairstyle choice have more meaning than simply a monetary commitment. Another item that my research participants repeatedly mentioned is that hair is linked to sexual attr activeness and even sexual orientation. Hair=Sexual Attractiveness and Orientation Beyond the monetary influence that African-des cended women wield on a global level as it relates to the purchase of hair care products, ha ir is important because within their cultural

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137 domain African-descended women in America use th e symbols imbued in hair and hairstyles to mark their sexual orientation and proclaim thei r sexual attractiveness. For example respondent 19 admits to changing her hair for he r husband in order to make him happy, For the last ten to fifteen years, I had been wearing a short natural. My hair is what many call naturally curly. When I met my husband, my hair was natural. After about two years of marriage, he began making statements like: I sure would like to see you with long hair. I have only seen you with long hair on pictur es at your moms house. I wonder what you look like with long, poofed out hair, meaning cu rls and long. So after ten years of wearing my hair in natural styles, I de cided to let in grow and in 2003 I put a relaxer in my hair. My husband loves it and I don't. He says it is my hair and I can do what I want, but every time I mention cut, he gets that quiet attitude. I think Black men have a thing with hair also. So although she did not agree with his desire for her to wear her hair in a straight style she completed this transformation in order to make him happy. This desire to please the opposite sex with hair is not an isolated story. Cosette Walker reports a similar experience in her attempt to please her fianc and his family. Walker she says, My lesson learned was that I was natural for five years and I got e ngaged and my fianc and his entire family wanted me to get a perm So finally I gave in and got the perm. My entire scalp was burned and my hair was dama ged for two and a half years to three years for my scalp to heal. It was the same chemi cals that I had used before but my body reacted differently and that was my lesson learned [Cosette Walker interview with author, February 8, 2005] Alternatively, when it comes to sexuality Cosette says, I think I am guilty ofif I see a sister with a fade it makes me wonder about her sexuality. If she has cornrows I also wonder, cornrows that are short [Cosette Walker in terview with author, February 8, 2005]. So, having long straight hair seems to be seen as a way to attract and keep a man, whereas short or short cornrowed hair is perceived as a sign of lesbiani sm. Following this line of thought, the argument can be made that African-descended women see long hair as a sign of femininity and short hair as a sign of masculinity.

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138 Hair=Level of Professionalism One of the most compelling arguments women of African descent have relied on when it comes to socializing each other abou t hair is that certain hairstyles are not professional. Mothers and grandmothers tell their daughters that in order to make it in the world they will need to have a professional appearance (see Figures 4-3 and 4-4). For example, when I finished law school and started looking for a job, I went to several in terviews sporting my quarter inch long hairdo called a fade when my grandmother approached me with a wig. She told me that I would never get a job looking like a radical lesbian (see Figure 4-5). I of course disagreed and argued with her about the job market being depressed. So I wore the wig on the next interview to prove to her that it did not matter. I was hired that same week (see Figure 4-6). Respondent number 125 echoed my grandmothers beliefs when she says: Black hair can be more difficult to style than naturally strai ght hair if you want straight styles. Whether a woman should be expected to wear her hair naturally depends on the job she has/wants. Here are the following situati ons where I don't think it really matters if she has natural hair: If she is working academia or maybe certain artistic fields, If she has knowledge/skills that are rare and in high demand, (3) If her hairstyle will not have a negative impact on sales, profits, etc . Whether this is fair or not is of little practical importance. This is the price Blacks pay for not working together to strengthen our own communities/businesses/institutions and depe nding on everyone else to hire of us. Two issues arise from respondent number 125s statements. First it seems problematic that only one or two styles, which are based on relaxe rs or extensions, are seen as presentable professional images. The second issue is that res pondent 125 seems to belie ve that the pressure for Black women to have a certain hairstyle is coming from the outside community and business world. She does not acknowledge the amount of intr a-racial hair policing or socialization that goes on to prevent women from ever appearing in the corporate world with nappy hair. Although mainstream society has probably influenced the initial creation of some of these beauty ideals, African-descended women seem to be se tting, perpetuating, and en forcing their own hair

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139 beauty standards. This form of community policin g curtails any deviation from these norms with silent disapproval and sometimes overt criticism as illustrated above by respondents number 141 and 191 stories. Also, this type of community po licing is not limited to informal enforcement, Hampton University in Virginia, one of the nations premiere hist orically Black universities just recently instituted a policy banning dreadlocks, braids and cornrows from the attire of its 5 year MBA students. The school stated that these st yles were not acceptable in the business world and therefore they would not be accepted for the st udents. However, the ban against braids only applies to male students. These types of actions help to create young womens ideas about what is and is not an acceptable hairstyle. But, also it is important to note that th is belief is rooted in the reality that appearance does matter in Amer ica and Black women have been discriminated against because of their ethnic hairstyles. For example respondent 45 says, I worked for the state as a correctional officer. I was told that because I wore micro-braids that my hair was a security threat. I had to remove them in order to continue as an employee. I removed them and went to a mid si ze afro. A week after I removed the braids, it was found discriminatory for them to have insisted that the braids be removed. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against employers for their discriminatory practices regarding African-descended womens hair. Bu t they have not always been successful. For example one of the first lawsuits filed against an employer came from Renee Rogers who worked for American Airlines in the late 1970s [Renee Rogers v. Am erican Airlines, Inc., 527 F. Supplement 229 [1981]]. Rogers worked as an airport attendant and she was prohibited from wearing braids at work by a company policy against the hair style. In dismissing her claim the Court held that since her hair was not an i mmutable characteristic, li ke her race, it could be easily changed to conform to her employers dre ss code requirement. This attitude towards unacceptable Black hair has not changed much since the Rogers case. Hair unlike skin tone and facial features is viewed as the one venue that can be transformed into a palatable appearance for

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140 mainstream culture. Black hair has the ability to be molded and crafted in to an assortment of shapes and designs (see Figures 4-7 to 4-10 from Bronner Brothers Hair Show); however unusual hairstyles are often viewed as shocking or threatening in mainstream culture. It is here that African-descended womens fe ars are confirmed when hairstyles are censured by employers, exacerbate legal problems, or mark individuals as otherwise socially dangerous. This fact is further illuminated by respondent number 118 who says that, I wear my hair in twists and I was following my aunt in a highly s ecured area in DC and the police officer just asked her what she was there for and allowed her to go through, but once I pulled up to the security check he as ked me to pop my tr unk. He did not ask my aunt, who relaxes her hair to pop her trunk. Alternatively respondent number 159 says, My hair is loc'd and has been since my husband and I started dating. He is thoroughly convinced that my shoulder length, clean, st yleable locs are unprof essional. I disagree. These locs aren't going anywhere anytim e soon. I call him Uncle Ruckus (from the Boondocks cartoon). I'm not goi ng to start hating myself or doubting myself because of him. Perplexed by this seemingly high level of animos ity against natural hair I asked my interview participant Cosette Walker for some clarity a bout how professional hair is crafted and why it matters. Walker says that, We are up against a lot of questions if we sel ect a natural hairstyle. People question your competence, they au tomatically think you are a radical troublemaker[Cosette Walker interview with au thor, February 8, 2005]. This perception of what is and what is not profe ssional hair was also closely linke d to what people believed was an indication of social class. Hair=Social Class When I asked Tonya Hatton whether or not a Black womans hairst yle could tell you her social class the dialogue went as follows: Rosado: What does someones hairstyle te ll you about there socio-economic status?

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141 Hatton: Well if I were to see someone with the waterfalls and the all different color then I would probably be like they are very ghetto fabulous. Rosado: What is Ghetto fabulous? Hatton: Just Man Just, I would define some one as being ghettofabulus as someone who thinks Ebonics is THE American language. Ahm thinks that having five kids by different fathers is an every day way of life. That beli eves that the only way they should get a check is from the government. Doesnt believe in ow ning anything but a car with rims thats a Cadillac is ok, . is acceptable. That thinks that their maintenance is first before their childrens. Doesnt believe in education, or doesnt have any. Doesnt have a GED. GHETTO FAB![Tonya Hatton intervie w with author, February 8, 2005]. Tonyas description of the type of Black woma n she would expect to have one of the more flamboyant hairstyles was an honest description of the beliefs held about these styles and their symbolic meanings among some African-descended women (see Figure 4-9 Bronner Brothers Hair Show Bingo Hair). Often during my intervie w sessions women would s it quietly after being asked this question and they would ask me what I meant. They seemed to want to avoid saying what they really thought and afte r the camera was off they would launch into vivid descriptions of how, ghetto some hairstyles could make a person look. One example of this reluctance can be seen in the prelude to the ha ir story that one survey partic ipant respondent number 76 gave me when she decided that she could not limit hersel f to my survey questions about professionalism and social class. She said, This survey serves as just another reminder of how far I've come from the days where I believed, like most Black women, that I had th e kind of hair that HAD to be relaxed. Not only do I no longer believe that (I've been natu ral for 9.5 years now), I find natural hair to be FAR more beautiful and versat ile than relaxed hair. In fact the only thing that keeps me from being completely amazed by women who prefer unhealthy relaxed hair to healthy nappy hair is the simple fact that I too was once blind like them. And yes, it IS a form of blindness when you consider that most Black women have NO CLUE how to care for their natural hair because they have (pra ctically) NO EXPERIENCE with it. The last part of this survey was hard to complete because, as I said, I don't view Black women's hair the same way as most folks. But because I do live in this world and in this country (USA), I answered certain questions (what's mo re professional, socially acceptable, etc.) based on my experiences as a woman who chooses not to relax her hair. In my experience, most Black people would never know by looking at me that I've worked in

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142 corporate America for the last 17 years. People see me and automatically assume that I'm a vegetarian tree-hugging radical Black Panther, even though I eat meat and dress pretty much the same as everyone else! Well . now that I'm going to be a full-time graduate student at the age of 40, I guess I'll fit in more easily in the academic world. *sigh* I don't believe every Black woman needs to go natural and stay natu ral forever (though I'd love to see it). I do believe, however, that every Black woman ought to at least know how to care for her natural hair even if she CHOOSES not to wear it naturally. Along with quick-weaves, jheri curls, and extensions, re laxing is supposed to be a CHOICE, not a NECESSITY. I don't think I'll ever see a massive mind-shift amongst my people in my lifetime, but in the meantime I'll continue to enjoy my natural naps. In general the interview research participan ts were apprehensive about labeling certain hairstyles as ghetto or even using the word ghetto, until I turned off the camera. So I have used Tonyas description to represent all of the women who used this term under their breath and after the official videotaped interview had ended. So I essentially had to rely on what Robert Adams calls hidden transcripts or discourse that ta kes place off stage (Adams 2006: 57) to help to provide me with a clearer understanding about how Black hair is given meaning in this domain. My research participants we re reluctant about demeaning other Black women in a forum where they thought those comments were being r ecorded. This concern for protecting the Black female image adds to our understa nding of how hair is seen as a powerful identifying marker in this group. Furthermore, this attempt at protecting the Black female image is also a testament to the fact that Black women are cognizant of the fragi lity associated with this often abused image. One participant even said, well you never know nowadays, the girl with the waterfall do could have a Ph.D.; it is not ri ght to judge [Cosette Walker in terview with author, February 8, 2005]. Additionally, I began to th ink that my interview participants were not sufficiently stratified economically. So I actively sought mo re women from various economic backgrounds. My research participants have strong beliefs about the mean ing and importance of hair but because they possess a tacit understanding about how powerful these beliefs are, they attempted to shield the public from their more caustic views. So my field notes we re used to extract the

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143 comments made by my participants which reflect the difference between what was said for the public and what was said to me, as member of the cultural domain. Hair Beliefs Hair Beliefs, Identity and Folklore All of the hair rituals and symbols lead to the fundamental system of beliefs Africandescended women hold about Black hair. Black women believe hair is important because they have learned that it symbolizes their social affiliations, their sexuality, their professionalism, and ultimately their individual identity in public (see Fi gures 4-11 to 4-15). The hair rituals they learn as children reinforce the symbolism and their beliefs about how hair should be viewed and interpreted. They believe that Bl ack hair is hard to manage, w ill not grow long, nappy hair is bad and good hair is really good. Evid ence of one of the more distur bing beliefs about the importance of hair can be found in res pondent number 181s hair story. As a teenager I tried to commit suicide by ove rdose on OTCs. In my first (and only) drug induced haze I was heard to have said that I wanted to have babies with my then Portuguese boyfriend so that I didn't ha ve to spend hours combing her hair. You'd think my potentially last moments w ould have been spent thinking about more important matters. Mind you, out of all the things I said, I'm surprised that stuck out the most in my mother's mind. Now, more than 15 years later, I have a daughter (toddler) and a son (newborn). After finding the right products for her hair, spending time with her every morning is less of a chore and more of a bonding experience. Not su re what my sub-conscious was afraid of way back when. How's that for a hair story? She is right, how is that for a ha ir story! It is a stor y that reveals some of the innermost negative beliefs held by Black women concerning our beauty, identity, and self worth. It is the same belief that is embodied in the statement one partic ipant made to me afte r seeing my husbands photograph on my laptop, girl your husbands gonna make some pretty babies with some good

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144 hair, you so lucky. This participant had remove d any possibility that my contribution to the gene pool would make our babies have bad or nappy hair. She meant it as a compliment, but she was referring to the deep rooted obsession and belie f that good hair is more desirable than nappy hair. During my participant observation I was privy to conversations in which women would evaluate the desirability of pa rtners who could give their ba bies good hair. Sometimes a mans hair texture would balance out bad traits such as infidelit y, employment status, or prior commitments (read girlfriend or wife). Hair functions as a powerful identity marker for women of African descent in America. It tells other Black women who you are and what ty pe of personality you might have. Hairstyles are imbued with messages in each strand. Cosette Walker speaks to this issue when she says, When I permed my hair I fit in a lot easier, I just didnt know who I was. I use my hair to express myself, for example when I first starte d working at the Y [MCA] I wanted them to know I was an individual, I was not going to co nform and play along. I was able to get the job done without being a cookie cu t out. Hair matters to us. I th ink it matters to us. I think it is does, I think it is the loude st voice. I think it is a lot louder than our tongues can speak. Because if you uhm if you want to make a stat ement, you can make all kinds of statements with your hair. Women that wear lets say weave and they wear ah for the fourth of July red White and blue weave. You ar e making your statement. I thin k that every style that we wear makes a statement [Cosette Walker interview with auth or, February 8, 2005] For African-descended women hair is a statement about social class, professionalism, sexuality and identity. It is a form of cultural shortha nd that women in the Black hair domain use to evaluate the status of the wo men around them. They use it to size each other up in social situations and they try to en force the cultural standards on al l who dont comply. These beliefs are so engrained that the Black hair domain has its own set of folklore tales. The women admonish each other: When you get you hair done, dont say thank you or your hair will fall out. Dont let a lot of people touch your hair or their bad spirits may transfer to you. Dont let two women do your hair at the same time or your hair will fall out.

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145 Dont let pregnant women do your hair or it will fall out. If you cut your hair carefully dispose of the clippings or someone may use your hair to bring you harm Dont wash your babies hair for at least si x months after birth and you might help them keep their good baby hair. A womans hair is her glory and it should not be cut Ultimately, Black women use these types of cautiona ry tales to cajole each other into hairstyle and texture compliance. Conclusion In this chapter my research participants to speak with their own voices and I have simply organized their narratives into the themes I identifi ed when listening to all of their stories. This chapter discusses their rituals, an explanation of some of the symbolism associated with black hair and present a brave foray into the intimate beliefs held by Black women about their hair. During the first phase of my data collection I focused on talking to women and observing them during their interactions. I disc ussed their beliefs and ideas du ring my dialogic interviews, and focus group discussions or hair parties. From my analysis of these inte ractions I created the themes that organize this chapter. These themes are: Hair Rituals Pain=Beauty Hair ritual=Happiness Hair Symbols Hair=Race Good-n-Bad Hair Hair= Sexual Attractiveness and Orientation Hair=Social Class Hair=Professionalism and SES Hair Beliefs Hair=Identity and beliefs

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146 The core rituals, symbols, and beliefs listed above form the basis of the cultural domain of Black hair. However, in order to further explore these themes I created an online survey and an online experiment that tap into each of these key symbols for Bl ack hair culture. In the next chapter I will discuss the political economy of ha ir and results of this second phase of my data collection efforts where I attempted to elicit the pa rameters of the cultural domain of hair from women of African descent.

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147 Figure 4-1 Washing that Good Hair -Craig and Nicole Rosado. P hotograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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148 Figure 4-2 Nashini Khan with good hair. Phot o courtesy of Ryan Santoo and Sybil Dione Rosado.

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149 Figure 4-3 Aunt Betty Beaver with Professional hair circa 1 960. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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150 Figure 4-4 Grandmother Sybil Barnes with prof essional hair circa 1970. P hotograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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151 Figure 4-5 Radical Lesbian hair Sybil Dione Rosado1992. Phot ograph courtesy of Don L. Johnson.

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152 Figure 4-6 Sybil Dione Rosado with professi onal hair circa 1994. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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153 Figure 4-7 Bronner Brothers Ha ir Show Feb 20, 2004. Photo cour tesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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154 Figure 4-8 Bronner Brothers Hair Show Red Quick Weave Feb 20, 2004 Courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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155 Figure 4-9 Bingo Hair Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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156 Figure 4-10 Hat weave Bronner Br others Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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157 Figure 4-11 Brandi Dunlap. Phot ograph coutesy of Sybil Dione Ro sado. Some hairstyles have different meanings. This particular hairstyl e is called a bob. This is the long version of the bob. Different hair lengths in this phot o really doesnt ha ve a meaning, the hairstyle and the length of the hair fits her face. Does hair say anything about her politically? I dont think it does. I mean shes not doing anythi ng as a politician or anything of that matter. But if she were to participate in something political, there may be some judgments about her hair. Do es hair say anything about her socially? Yes, it does, it says I dont feel like doing my hair in the mornings, I just want to get up and go. I chose this photo because it is one of the many unique hairstyles that I would wear myself. The photo do esnt mean anything except of having the choice to wear braids when you want t o. I think that in my commu nity, having braids means you want your hair to grow more. Because people say that if you keep your hair braided it will grow. Braids can also mean other things such as wearing them in a certain season of the year. Some may wear brai ds when it is cold. This is my analysis of this photo .Unidentified undergraduate student response to digital storytelling assignment at Benedict College.

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158 Figure 4-12 Kourtney Humbert. Photograph courtesy of Sama ntha Crommer and Sybil Dione Rosado. Different hairstyles has different meanings. Kourtney has the goddess braids, she has the Afrocentric look. She got extra length so her braids could hang long over her shoulders. She got her natural color to match the weave in her hair. Different texture are within your race, she has thic k hair. Hair is your personal image, it represents you, and al so your personality. African Amer icans usually get braids with weave attached, it helps grow your hair, and its a nice style. Samantha Cromer response to digital storytelling as signment at Benedict College.

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159 Figure 4-13 Daphnie Turner. Photog raph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado. The next picture is of Daphnie Turner. She was a classmate and was working on the assignment just as well. Her hair was long natural, healthy, and black. You can tell that she is a simple person because she doesnt ch ange up her hair a lot. Sh e keeps the long sleek look just like herself. . Unidentified undergraduate student response to digital storytelling assignment at Benedict College.

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160 CHAPTER 5 SURVEY, EXPERIMENTAL AND PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION DATA The presentation of data in th is chapter is organized around th e core themes of the Black hair domain that were revealed by the first portion of my research. I begin by discussing the data gleaned from an online survey that I conducted entit led, Black hair is . ? After reviewing the demographic data concerning the respondents who completed this survey I will move on and discuss the key themes generated from the wome ns rituals, symbols and beliefs, these themes are: Hair Pain=Beauty Hair ritual=Happiness Hair=Race Good-n-Bad Hair Hair= Sexual Attractiveness and Orientation Hair=Social Class Hair=Professionalism and SES Hair=Identity and beliefs Once the themes created from the survey are expl ored I will discuss the experimental data and how they relate to womens beliefs about hair. Fi nally, this chapter ends with a discussion about how the political economy of hair combined with the rituals, symbols, and beliefs employed by African-descended women in America helps to shape the domain of Black hair. Demographics This research was restricted to gleaning the beliefs of women of Af rican descent. Despite this fact numerous men approached me and aske d why my research excluded them because they wanted to complete the survey. Eventually, I duplicated the online su rvey and created an alternate site that men could visit but, for di ssertation purposes I will only focus on the women who responded. Of the 298 surveys completed, 292 res pondents identified themselves as women.

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161 Age by Geography The first question I attempted to answer was how old my participants were and where they were from. This prompted me to create a cross tabulation chart of age by geographical origin. (see Figure 5-1). This chart shows that the wome n from the south were represented in all age groups and some older women in the North East participated. This chart also shows the U.S. Territory and foreign participation in the study. This chart shows that the majority of my participants were between the ages of 18 and 30, but despite the fact that I primarily handed out research request cards in the American South I ha ve a healthy amount of pa rticipation from other geographical areas. Age by Income The next cross tabulation I performed was ag e against income (see Figure 5-2). This calculation reveals that the majority of the respondents were young and middle class or poor. 74.60 percent of the women under age 30 also earn $50,000 dollars or less pe r year. Here we can see that the women who were 18-30 had less mone y and as the age of the women increases so does their income. So the next question I asked was how women spend this income when it come to hair care? Income by Hair Care Expenditures When I conducted my participant observati on I saw women spend hundreds of dollars at the beauty supply stores and at th e hairdresser. Black women had al so reported that they spent a lot of money on their hair when I did my prelim inary research. So I decided to ask how much women were spending during a month on hair care products and beauty shop services in two different questions. Surprisingly, the majority of my respondents indicated that they spent very little money on their hair care products, and very little on their hair care services. So despite increases in income the majority of women reported only spending $11-20 dollars per month on

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162 hair care products. However this monetary amount did not match my observations nor my interviews with black beauty supp ly store owners who said that th e average bill in their stores was about $25 dollars per custom er [interview with author, Fe b 12, 2005]. So even the majority of women who reported earning ov er $100,000 dollars per year said they only spent about ten dollars per month on their hair care products. Similar incongruence was found when I exam ined womens reported expenditures on beautician services. Women who earned less th an $10,000 per year reported that they spend about ten dollars per month at th e beautician. However, this tre nd in low expenditures continued for women who earned up to $50,000 dollars per year Based on this reporting only women who earned more than $50,000 dollars per year spen t $21-40 dollars per month at the beautician. These data did not match my observations in beauty shops or my interviews of stylists. Stylists reported to me that they earned an average of $65 dollars per person for chemical procedures, $35 dollars for weekly maintenance procedures lik e a wash and set, $125 dollars for twists, and $150 dollars and up for weaves. These prices did not include tips or raw ma terials like human or synthetic hair [interview with author, March 15 2003]. I could conclude that either my research popul ation has drastically ch anged its habits, that they were not reporting their true expenditures, or that large per centage of the sample of women who responded to my online survey have natural hairstyles or care for their ha ir themselves. Because I was not sure which of these dynamics wa s influencing my results I was glad that I had asked the women to list the name of their curren t hairstyles in the surv ey instrument. I coded these hairstyles and then sorted them for fre quency. I found eleven major hairstyle categories. The women listed weaves (12), twis ts (52), perms (105), press and curl (8), naturals (23), knots

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163 (3), hot combed (3), dreadlocks (15), cornrows (10) braids (16), and Afros ( 45) as the styles they were currently wearing. A review of the womens reported hairstyles reveals that although the largest group of women reported having a perm or relaxer based st yle, which traditionally cost more money than a natural style, there were an unusually high num ber of women who reported natural hairstyles. Recoding the data to group the natural hairstyles and the pr ocessed hairstyles together reveals that my survey sample was heavily infl uenced by the fact that the majority of women who answered the questions were wearing natura l hairstyles (see Figures 5-3 and 5-4). This means that they may have been answering accurately when they said that they did not spend a lot of money on their hair, as many of these st yles could be created at home by the women themselves without the aid of beauticians or stylists. So these demographic details are important for understanding why th e data in the online survey do not necessarily correlate with the inte rview and focus group data. This also may be a reflection of the two populations targeted for this survey. The Alpha Kappa Alpha group reports high incomes and education group and we can assume that the natural hair forum members were more likely to have natural hairstyles. The split in hairstyles may be re lated to the differences between these two groups. However, it is cl ear that the sample produced by the online participants did not have the most common hairstyles found in the target population. So they were not actually representative, when it came to hairstyle, of the targ et population. Now I will focus on some of the data gleaned from the resp ondents answers to the fifty question survey. Survey Data Hair Pain=Beauty The respondents were asked five questions that related to thei r experiences with hair that could be classified as painful. Not all of these questions deal with physical pain because pain was

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164 coded to include difficulty and discomfort. The key here was to attempt to uncover how women felt about their hair. The first question is, Please tell me how you feel about the following statement. Black women have to pay more for ha ir care services than White women because our hair is harder to care for. On the chart this question was coded as HCare as an abbreviation for the concept of Black hair being harder to care for (see Figure 55 Hair =Pain Chart). The second question is Please tell me how you feel about th e following statement. As far as Black womens hairstyles go hair that is not relaxed is extremely difficult to care for. In the chart this second question is coded as HNotRelax, th is is an abbreviation for the c oncept that hair which is not relaxed is hard to care for. The third question in this theme is, Please tell me how you feel about the following statement. Natural Black hair is as easy to manage as natural White hair. This is recoded in the chart as Heasy to represent the concept that natu ral Black hair is as easy to manage as White hair. The fourth question is, Please tell me how you feel about the following statement. As far as Black hair care goes, hair relaxers are one of the best things that ever happened to Black women. This question is code d as RelaxerG to represent the concept that relaxers are good. Finally, the fifth question was related to the pains associated with Black hair. I asked Please tell me how you feel about the foll owing statement. As far as Black womens hair goes, hair that has no chemical or heat applied to it is more difficu lt to care for. This question is coded NatBad on the chart to represent the concep t that natural hair is harder to care for and therefore bad. This chart reveals that 75 percent of the wome n disagreed with the concept that Black hair is harder to care for in the NatBad category. Si milarly, 85 percent of th em disagreed with the concept that natural Black hair is hard to car e for in the HNotRelax category. But, when the question about Black hair being more difficult to care for is asked differently, the women dont

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165 agree as clearly. Only 53 percent of the women ag reed that natural Black hair is as easy to manage as natural White hair in the Heasy category. When the women are asked about the relaxer being one of the best things, their num bers realign clearly and 75 percent of them disagree with this statement. Finally, when the NatBad category is reviewed we find the womens beliefs are more clearly aligned again. When the women are asked whether natural hair is more difficult to care for 81percent disagree wi th this statement. So while the women seemed reluctant to say that natural hair is difficult or bad, they were more willing to admit that they perceive Black hair as bei ng not as easy to manage as Caucasian type hair. Hair Ritual=Happiness In the hair ritual equals happiness categor y I only tried one survey question about the womens daughters. It seemed im portant for me to ask the wome n how they feel about relaxing their daughters hair. Since the beau ty shop ritual seemed to be such an important factor for so many women I wanted to know what they felt wa s an acceptable entry point for their daughters into this world. The question is, Please tell me how you feel about the following statement. It is best to start relaxing a lit tle girls hair when she fi rst starts elementary school. Ninety six percent of the respondents disagreed with this statement. Looking back at the questions now I think I should have taken a less provocative stance. I had seen the elementary school aged girls in the beauty shop and I had assumed that their mothers were allowing them to get relaxers, in reality these girls may have been getting their hair pre ssed and curled (see Figure 5-6). Little girls seemed to revel in replicating their mothers adult hairstyles, in the United States and in Ghana, West Africa (see Figure 5-7). I found numerous grade school girls who were having adult styles crafted on their small heads. So my perception of what was happening in the field may have been tainted by my assump tions, which are reflected by the respondents

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166 overwhelming disapproval with this concept. Ad ditionally, I should have asked more questions specifically about whether ha ir rituals are rewarding. Hair=Race For this theme the question that was asked is, Please tell me how you feel about the following statement, No matter what a person looks like I can usually figure out if they are Black by looking at the texture of thei r hair. Interestingly, despite th e fact that this was a common statement during the interviews and focus group the women who responded to the survey were divided on this issue. Fifty one percent of the women disagreed with this statement and 49percent agreed. So again the survey data fa iled to support the interview, focus group and participant observation data. Good-n-Bad Hair In this thematic unit two ques tions are asked to gauge the respondents perceptions of good and bad hair. First the women are asked their leve l of agreement with the statement that, In the Black community good hair has been defined as ha ir that is easy to comb because it is straight, silky, and does not have tight cu rls (see Figure 5-8). The second question they are asked is, In the Black community nappy hair is defined as hair that is difficult to comb because it is very curly and cotton like. Eighty eight percent of the women agreed with the first statement about the definition of good hair and 86 percent of the women agreed with the definition of nappy hair (see Figure 5-9). Moreover, 93 percent of the respondents did not think that any Black woman would desire nappy hair and 72 percent of them believed that Black women would actually prefer having what they call straight or good hair. Hair=Sex The question that was used to engage this thematic unit was, Generally speaking, Black men seem to be more attracted to women with stra ight or relaxed or straig htened hair than to un-

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167 straightened hair. Fifty nine percent of the wo men agreed with this statement. This indicates that the women believe that men find straight hair more attractive that what is perceived as nappy hair. In order to more fully understand these phenomena I input the da ta I received into a multidimensional scaling program, called Permap, to uncover the hidden structure residing in the data set (Heady and Lucas 1997). This perceptual mapping software conveys information about the perceived relationships between the objects and it reveals object to object relationships based on their proximity (Heady and Lucas 1997). The vi sual map shows that Jh eri curls and weaves are grouped together when it comes to attractivene ss (see Figure 5-10). Then twists, natural hair and dreadlocks are together, next micro braids and relaxers and fi nally cornrow styles are alone. This map show that the women pe rceive the styles that are groupe d together to be of similar attractiveness. These survey results matched the data gleaned from the participant observation and interviews. Future research might ask men if th ey actually prefer strai ght hair to see if the womens assumptions are valid. Hair=Professionalism In this section of the data it becomes even more evident that the respondents are most likely wearing natural hairstyles. Most of their an swers are in direct oppos ition to the statements made by women during interviews and focus groups The survey women agreed on almost all of the questions regarding hair and professionalism. First when they were asked whether or not a woman who relaxes her hair is trying to l ook more professional; 85 percent of the women disagreed with this notion. Nine ty six percent of them said th ey would hire someone who had dreadlocks, 91 percent said that they did not believe a woman s hould remove her braids for her employer, 98 percent said she should not relax her hair at her employers request and 88 percent said that they did not believe th at you had to conform in order to move up in the work world. But despite all of these positive be liefs the respondents espoused about natural hair and employment

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168 they were split when it came to whether or not they agreed that natural hair is acceptable in the workplace. For both of the questions that address the acceptance of natura l hair by people in the workplace, the respondents were sp lit in half. So although they i ndicate that they personally believe that natural hair in the workplace is good and acceptable they admit that they are unsure about how the workplace views these types of hairstyles. Here we see the split between the personal and the public perception of hair. Inpu tting the data regarding the social acceptability of hairstyles from the survey into the Permap program showed that the women felt Jheri curls and relaxers had the greatest proximity difference. Twists were closer to relaxer, which probably indicates that this style is seen as more accepta ble. Weaves, short hair, and cornrows are grouped together in the center of the gr aph, indicating their similarity a nd dreadlocks are near the center but they pedunculated away from the main group (see Figure 5-11). When I input the data regarding what the women thought were professional hairstyles into the Permap program the results were more clearly grouped (see Figure 5-12). Jheri curls and dreadlocks were away from the main group and so were weaves and cornrow hairstyles. The hairstyles that were grouped together as professional were rela xers, micro braids, twists, and th e short natural. This indicates that women may see styles like cornrows, dreadlocks and weaves as being socially acceptable (see Figure 5-11), but they do not see these hairstyles as pr ofessional (see Figure 5-12). Hair=Identity Once again the survey answers contradict the focus group and interview participants. Based on the answers provided to these questions hair is not related to identity. Seventy two percent of the women disagreed with the statement that the way a Black woman wears her hair is an indica tion of her racial pride. This category is H=Pride on the chart (see Figure 5-13). Furthermore, 89 percent of the women disagreed with the statement that hairstyle is an indication of political activism. Finally, 90 percent of the women disagreed with

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169 the statement that having a relaxer means that a woman is trying to deny her racial heritage. The Permap shows that women grouped their hairstyl es into two main categories, ethnic and not ethnic (see Figure 5-14). Interesti ngly, relaxed hair is grouped t ogether with cornrows, twists, micro braids, and dreadlocks while weaves and jher i curls are seen as being less ethnic. This data would seem to indicate that having relaxe d hair does not symbolize a loss of identity because relaxed hair is seen as a na tural style (see Figure 5-15 to 5-16). The conflicts between the data collected during participant observation, focus groups, interviews and the survey data prompted me to explore other ways to as k my participants about their beliefs. I also rea lized that I needed to recruit from a more diverse population. I believe that a large number of my responde nts in this initial surv ey were recruited from www.nappuality.com a natural hair discussion forum. I also believe that these women responded more readily because they were already on the Internet discussing thei r beliefs about hair. Thes e reflections guided my creation of an online hair experiment. Hair Experiment Data The Black hair experiment consists of an online survey where respondents are asked to make judgment statements about a woman based on her hairstyle. There are twelve photographs that the respondent reviews, answering the same questions about each photograph (see Figures 517 to 5-28). The womans face and demeanor rema in the same in the photographs, and the only stimulus is that the hairstyle changes. Demogra phically this group did not vary as much as the initial survey. Seventy six percent of the respondents earn less th an thirty four thousand dollars per year and this is probably related to the young er age of this sample. Seventy three percent of the respondents were between the ages of 18 a nd 24, but women from each age group answer the survey (see Figure 5-29).

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170 Furthermore, because I did not deploy this su rvey online with the same Web Site, I ended up depending on snowball and convenience sampling. So, these respondents primarily came from the American South, where they encountered me, or one of their friends sent them the survey. It is important to note that even though I did not actively recruit ou tside of the state of South Carolina this survey was transmitted via th e social network of women discussing hair to areas all over and beyond the geogra phical bounds of the United States. Seventy eight percent of the respondents in th is experiment have le ss than one year of college education and 87 percent are single. The women classified themselves as predominately Christian, (89 percent), and politic ally liberal (38 percen t), or Black feminist (24 percent). These demographics become important because the respondents are asked to judge these same socioeconomic questions about the woman in the photograph. The respondents were given the following instructions, This survey involves you giving your honest opinion of a woman in a photo. The woman will be the same but her hairstyle will ch ange. There are 8 questions about you, 12 photos to view with 9 questions to answer about each photo. Then finally there are 7 summary questions and 1 final question for you. Deta iled Instructions: In total there are 125 questions and the survey should take about 45 minutes to complete. Remember it is important to honestly evaluate each photo and te ll me what her appearance says about her. Think about it like this--If you saw her on the st reet and you had to answer these questions, what would you think of her in your mind? H onesty is the only correct answer! Scroll down the page and answer the questions. If you need to look at the photo again, scroll back up the page. Don't press the back button on your computer. If you skip a question, the computer will notify you and ask you to answer it for the survey. When you reach the end of the page hit the submit button and it will tu rn to the next page. Once you click on the submit button at the bottom of the page you will not be able to go back. There are six pages to complete in the survey. When you ar e finished you will see a collage of all the photos and a thank you message. You will also be able to review other participants responses to the survey. If you are a student at my college, th en this final collage is the page you will be required to print in or der to earn bonus points for your class. Photo Number One: Short Relaxed with Tint Photo number one displays the woman with short relaxed hair that is slightly tinted on the edges (see Photo 5-17). The data from photo number one revealed that women believed her to be

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171 a student (30 percent) or a food service worker (21 percent), polit ically apathetic (36 percent), with less than one year of college (41 percent), a Christian (93 percent), whose primary form of entertainment is going to dance clubs (26 percen t) or talking on her cell phone (24 percent). She has a relaxed personality1 (52 percent), she is probably from the south, and she is between the ages of 18 and 24. Overwhelmingly, the responden ts thought that economically she was poor or working poor (60 percent). Photo Number Two: Medium Relaxed Bob Photo number two shows the woman with medium length permed or relaxed hair in a cut that is usually referred to as a bob (see Figure 5-18). The data from photo number two reveals that the women believed she is working class (3 8 percent) or working poor (31 percent). She works in the retail industry (24 percent) or cust omer service (17 percent). She has one or more years of college, but no degree (26 percent). She is a contemporary Black feminist (36 percent), Christian (91 percent), who spends her leisure time going to dan ce clubs (18 percent) and having her nails done (17 percent). She has a type B pe rsonality because she is probably from the south and she is about 18-24 y ears old (65 percent). Photo Number Three: Short Relaxer with Burgundy Streaks Photo number three shows the woman with a short perm or relaxer that is highlighted with burgundy streaks (see Figure5-19). The data from photo number three reve als that the women believed she is poor (46 percent) or working poor (33 percent), She works in the food service industry (35 percent) or she is unemployed (21 percent). Sh e has a high school degree (39 percent) or she is still in hi gh school (24 percent). She is a pol itically apathetic (30 percent), 1The personality types used in this experiment were adapted from the psychological literature (Azibo 1983, Baum, et al. 2001, Deary, et al. 2003, Dijksterhuis and van Knipperberg 1998, Nichter, et al. 2004, OLeary 1993). The traditional type A, B, C, and D typology was presente d to two focus groups and during these interactions the research participants crafted agreed upon definitions for the different pe rsonality types they thought were pertinent to the research.

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172 Christian (83 percent), who spe nds her leisure time going to dance clubs (54 percent) and watching television (24 percent). She has a type B personality because she is probably from the south and she is about 18 -24 years old (61percent). Photo Number Four: Medium Length Curly Natural Photo number four shows the woman with medium length curly hair that could be natural (see Figure5-20). The data from photo number th ree reveals that the women believe she is working class (32 percent). She is currently a st udent (32 percent) who has either one or more years of college but no terminal degree (39 percen t). However, twenty one percent of the women believe she has a terminal graduate or professional degree. She is a Black Feminist (34 percent), Christian (69 percent), who spends her leisure time reading (37 pe rcent). She may have a type B (28 percent), or type A (27 percent) personal ity, because she is proba bly from New York (21 percent). She is about 18-24 years old (48 percen t) or she may be a litt le older like 25-30 years old (40 percent). Photo Number Five: Blonde Shoulder Length Asymmetrical Cut Photo number five shows the woman with a shou lder length asymmetrical cut perm that is highlighted with blonde streaks (see Figure 5-21). The data fro m photo number three reveals that the women believed her to be working poor (30 pe rcent) or working class (30 percent). She may be a student (20 percent) or she works in retail or customer serv ice (15 percent) each. She has a high school degree (22 percen t) or she just might be in colleg e (40 percent). She is a politically apathetic (27 percent), Christian (85 percent), who spends her le isure time having her hair and nails done (29 percent) and going to dance clubs (21 percent). She has a type B personality (43 percent) because she is probably from the south and she is between 18-24 years old (51 percent) or 25-30 years old (38 percent).

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173 Photo Number Six: Burgundy Braid Extensions Photo number six shows the woman with brai d extensions that are highlighted with burgundy dye (see Figure 5-22). The data from photo number six reveals that the women believed she is poor (43 percent), she works in th e food service industry ( 31 percent) or she is unemployed (21 percent). She barely has a high school degree (31 percent) or she is still in high school (30 percent). She is a politically apathe tic (35 percent), Christ ian (77 percent), who spends her leisure time going to dance clubs (21 percent) and watching te levision (20 percent). She has a type B personality (50 percent) because she is probably from the south and she is about 18-24 years old (57 percent). Photo Number Seven Dreadlocks Photo number seven shows the woman with dr eadlocks or locks (see Figure 5-23). The data from photo number seven reveals that the women believed that she is working class (27 percent) or working poor (26 per cent), she is a student (21 percen t) who is currently working on a graduate degree (21 percent). She may even ha ve her masters degree (7 percent). She is a Black nationalist (37 percent), Ch ristian (49 percent), who spends her leisure time reading (38 percent). She has a type A personality and this is why she has so much education. They are unclear about where she is from, but they thi nk she is about 25-30 years old (51 percent). Photo Number Eight Long Perm Photo number eight shows the woman with long permed or relaxed straight hair (see Figure 5-24). The data from phot o number eight reveals that th e women believed that she is working class (34 percent) or middle class ( 21 percent), she has a professional career (24 percent) because she is a college graduate ( 23 percent). She is a contemporary liberal (30 percent), Christian (84 percent), who spends her leisure tim e having her nails done (21 percent) and shopping for new clothes (20 percent) when she is not at the gym (19 percent). She has a

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174 type B personality because she is a southern belle. Finally (54 percent) of them think she is over 25. Photo Number Nine Curly Hair Photo number nine shows the woman with curly hair that could be a quick weave, or a Jheri curl (see Figure 5-25). The data from photo number nine reveals that the women believed that she is working class (30 percent), she is a student (22 percent) who is currently trying to graduate from high school (22 perc ent) She is a contemporary liber al (27 percent), Christian (80 percent), who spends her leisure time watchi ng television (22 percen t). She has a type B personality and she is probably a bout 18-24 years old (44 percent). Photo Number Ten Burgundy Layered Perm Photo number ten shows the woman with a perm or relaxed style that has been cut into different layers and then dyed burgundy (see Fi gure 5-26). The data from photo number ten reveals that the women believed th at she is poor (32 percent) or working poor (32 percent), she works in the food service (21 pe rcent) or retail industry (21 percent). She has a high school education (30 percent) but she is politically apathetic (32 percent). She is a Christian (78 percent), who spends her leisure time going to da nce clubs (32 percent) and having her hair and nails done (24 percent). She has a type B personality which work s out well in the south, and she is about 18-24 years old (56 percent). Photo Number Eleven Platinum Blonde Perm Photo number eleven shows the woman with a perm or relaxed style that has been dyed platinum amber blonde and cut into a bob style (see Figure 5-27). The data from photo number eleven reveals that the women believed that she is poor (33 percent) or working poor (31 percent), she works entertainment industry ( 22 percent) when she is not unemployed (17 percent). Her highest level of education is high sc hool (52percent) but she is politically apathetic

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175 (31 percent). She is a Christian (76 percent), who spends her leisure time going to dance clubs (35 percent) and having her hair and nails done (21 percent). She has a type B personality which works out well in the south, and she is about 18-24 years old (53 percent). Photo Number Twelve Long Curly Perm Finally, when she appears in photograph 12 the wo man has a perm or relaxed style that has been cut into different layers and curled (see Figure 5-28). The data from photo number twelve reveals that the women believed that she is work ing class (26 percent) or perhaps even middle class (21 percent), she has a prof essional career (27 percent) because she has graduated from college (24 percent), and she may have a Mast ers degree (15 percent). She is a contemporary liberal (32 percent) who comes from a strong Christian background (83 percent). She spends her leisure time reading (26 percent) and exercising (20 percent). She is the only type C personality in the group (31 percent) but she could be a type D seeking stability a nd security in life (28 percent). They are not sure where she is from but not only is she the ri chest, best educated, individual; she is also the oldest because she is probably 31-40.years old. Most Ethnic Appearance After the questions are asked about each of the photos individua lly the respondents are presented with all of the photos and asked to so rt them based on what they thought of the women as a group. They were asked to vote on several key categories. When asked who was the most ethnic out of all of the photos 23 percent of the women selected photo number seven (see Figure 5-23). In this photo the woman ha s dreadlocks and the research pa rticipants seemed to believe that dreadlocks were the most ethnic hairstyle an d that by wearing this style the woman herself became more ethnic. Nineteen pe rcent of the respondents selected photo number four as the second most ethnic style (see Figu re 5-20). This hairstyle appear s to be more like what the women called nappy or natural hair, but it was not perceived to be as ethnic as dreadlocks.

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176 Most Professional/Conservat ive/Attractive Appearance In photo number eight (see Figure 5-24), th e model was perceived to be the most professional (72 percent), conservative (30 per cent) and attractive (50 percent). This is interesting because in photo number eight the model is wearing the longest and straightest hairstyle out of all the photos. So despite th e responses received a bout natural hair being perceived as beautiful in the Bl ack hair survey, the experiment data shoes how womens selected straight long hair as the main symbol of beauty and professionalism. Photo 12 (see Figure 5-28) came in second as the most professional pe rson (36 percent), and second as the most conservative person (20 percent). So here again we find the women in the survey validating long hair that appears to be relaxed as the symbol of profe ssionalism. Women also believed that the wearer of this hairstyle was richer and more educated th at the members of her cohort w ith shorter or colored hair. Most Ghetto Appearance In attempting to define professional hair styles my questions went beyond what is professional into the concept of what appears to be unprofessiona l or what my respondents called ghetto. Thirty six percent of the women se lected photo number 11 as the person the women thought was most ghetto out of the group of phot os (see Figure 5-27), and 14 percent of the women believed it was photo number six (see Figure 522). Hair color coul d be influencing the womens perceptions photo 11 a nd six, but photos one, two, three, five, and ten all have hairstyles with added color. Yet photos 11 and six are the only photos where the hair is fully lightened a significant shade. So perhaps color is a key symbol women look for when assessing social class and professionalism w ithin the cultural domain of hair.

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177 Most Likely Real Hair Finally when the women were asked to state which hairstyle was the models real hair 33 percent of them believed that it was photo numbe r four (see Figure 5-20), and 20 percent said it was photo number one (see Figure 5-17). The survey participants seemed to believe that the model has short or natural hair. It is uncle ar why they made this assumption, and many participants were genuinely surp rised to learn that her real ha ir is depicted in photo number seven (see Figure 5-23). The photos and the respondents perceptions of them reveal the symbolic meaning attached to hairstyles for women of African descent. Du ring interviews when the women were asked to state the symbolic meaning of styles they were most often unable to ar ticulate clear meanings. They were even reluctant to state their negative beliefs when they were questioned in person and on the survey. But, presenting these women with vi sual cues allowed me to tap into their true beliefs and uncover the symbolic meanings asso ciated with hairstyles. The same women who said they did not think hair could be equated to politics also said the woman with dreadlocks was probably an Afrocentric Black na tionalist (37 percent). Simila rly, photo number four of the model with hair that appears to be a natural hairstyle, (see Figure 5-20), is assumed to be a Black feminist by 34 percent of the survey participants. So in direct c ontradiction to the survey data that said hair had nothing to do with politics we see that when the women evaluate another Black womans hair they assign polit ical meaning to the style. Participant Observation on the Po litical Economy of Black Hair The symbolic adornment of hair has been in practice for at least 3000 years because it is well documented that the Egyptians used wool, cotton, and human ha ir to create wigs and hair extensions that served as indicators of thei r social status (Sagay 1983; Seiber 2000). This symbolic adornment has been and continues to be a widespread practi ce throughout a ll of Africa

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178 and the African Diaspora. So attributing meani ng and status to indivi duals based on hair and hairstyles is not a new phenomenon. However, analyzing the meani ng of hair based on the data collected in this project allowed me to reflect on the financial implications of hair as a business in America. Black Hair care products are a bill ion dollar industry in this country alone, so the meaning of Black hair is inex tricably linked to money. Black women spend a lot of money on their hair and this is one of the reasons hair ma tters so much to them. So I began reviewing the global, political and historic pro cesses that are manifested in loca l contexts regarding hair. This prompted me to explore the economic context in which hair is embedded in Black culture. To that end this chapter examines the political ec onomy of hair through two foci, first the global human hair trade and second state imposed licensi ng requirements for hair braiders. Here the discussion turns to how daily life f unctions to create webs of meani ng in a local and global arena. I used the data collected online to reflect on th e meaning and valuation pr ocess attached to the hair and hairstyles Black women pay so much money to achieve. Human Hair Trade One of the most interesting components of th e hair industry is the human hair trade that originates in Asia. Human hair is donated or sold primarily by As ian women and then this hair is transformed into wigs, human hair wefts for w eaves, and loose human hair for braiding. This human hair trade is important to understand because the majority of the styles created and worn by African-descended women depend on human or synthetic hair as its raw material. For this research I focused on one route that the human hair trade takes out of South Asia. I traveled to the Tirumala Tirupati Balaji Temple one of I ndia's most conservative (and perhaps richest) temples. This is where I began investigating how wo men travel to fulfill their vows and offer their hair to Sri Venkateshwara, th e presiding deity of the temple.

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179 In this place of surrendering human hair to Lord Venkateswaraswami, about 4,000 of the 50,000 people who are tonsured, or undergo the practice of ritual ly shaving hair from the individuals head, are women (Me ssias 2005). Over five hundred barbers work at Kalyana Katta and tonsuring takes place 24 hours a day (Messias 2005) (see Figure 5-30). The hair from these women and other women like them who are devot ees of Lord Venkateswaraswami are gathered together by the barbers in and around the shrine, given to the priests a nd then sold to hair factories. The ritual tonsuring itself is a symbolic practice of completely surrendering ones ego at the feet of the deity. Pilgrims undergo tonsuring as a way to fulfill vows, made to ensure the health of their loved ones, and ask for other blessings. Vows can be fulfilled by several methods including: tonsuring, walking from the foothills to the temple, angapradakshinam, a form of prostr ating and rolling around the temple, tulabharam, offering ones weight in co ins, food, or other valuables, and niluvudopidi, offering all one has at the moment including clothes. Traveling to Tirupati from Chennai is a four hour journey via automobile. Many tours leave at 5 a.m. to make it to the tallest of seven hills where the shrine is located in time for a full day of standing in line for the darshan (viewing of the deity). A rriving at the shrine I am surprised that men are being routinely rousted from their vehicles and searched, while women are allowed to sit and watch this spectacle unmolested. As my driver and companion are searched I think about how fortuna te I am to be a woman at this moment and precluded from suspicion of malfeasance. Then we began the lo ng drive up the winging m ountain road past the pilgrims who were walking to fulfill their vows.

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180 The hamlet surrounding the temple serves as living quarters for the throngs of pilgrims who visit the shrine each day. Devot ees are given a choice of locati ons for tonsuring and prior to approaching the barber they can purchase a small tonsuring kit that includes their own personal razor. Outside of the temple the barbers charge a small fee for tonsur ing, but tonsuring in Kalyana Katta is free (see Figure 5-31). The barbers carefully inspected me as I entered their workspace. Having acquired permission from the lo cal authorities to vide o tape, once I remove my slippers I am welcomed but the barbers are s till wary about my motives. They kept asking me was I sure that I did not want to have a tonsuring performed. I assured them that I was going to make my vow by walking from the foothills to the temple, but they seemed suspicious. The sparse barber shop has no seats and all of the barbers sit around th e edges of the room with a small gutter separating them from the pilg rim. Devotees sit on the floor and stretch their bodies forward in supplication to the barbers wh o quickly dispose of their locks (see Figure 532). Standing on moistened and da nk concrete drains I watched as hair and cleansing water swirled about my feet. Shorn hair is perceived as dirty and the p ilgrims avoid touching the hair after it is clipped from their bodies. The hair falls into the gutters and is then swept together for collection and donation (s ee Figure 5-33). Children are often brought to be tonsured in order to ensure their health and wellbeing. However, several of the children I observed being tonsured did not seem to enjoy the process, and they had to be held still by their fathers or mothers as they cried. However, after the tonsuring procedures were completed I was often enlisted to take photographs of the family with a child proudly displaying their shorn heads (see Figures 5-34). Leaving the hamlet I began my journey into th e shrine. Despite the fact that there was a long line to enter Kalyana Katta th e assumption that I, an obvious outsider, was there to receive

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181 tonsuring prompted temple authorities to usher me to the front of the line (see Figure 5-30). These actions may have also been the result of my status as an outsider who appeared to be the focus of a film crew. Upon entering the temple I began to explain my true intentions which caused a minor commotion. I was instructed to wait in the office while they attempted to secure permission for me to videotape the inner workings of the shrine. My requ est to do research had not specifically indicated that I wanted to enter the temple, and th is is what caused the confusion. Eventually, I was told that I co uld not videotape inside the shri ne, and I could only enter if I intended to be tonsured. So my tonsuring journey ended in the o ffice of Kalyana Katta. This did not dissuade me from visiting the rest of the pr operty and observing the other pilgrims. I went on to watch as pilgrims searched through the large number of ha ts available from vendors on the grounds (see Figure 5-35). Numerous people appro ached me touching my hair and then their own bald heads as if to ask, when will you fu lfill your vow, when will you be tonsured? Asking women why they had selected tonsuring to fulfill their vows proved to be futile. The vows are personal and how you choose to fulfill them seem to be just as personal. One woman told me in an incredulous tone that if she told me she would risk not having her wishes fulfilled. Apparently, even though I appeared to be an outsider people expected me to know proper protocol regarding worship. After completing my walk to the temple, I ended my day with a traditional darshan. Outside the temple the barbers clean efficiently and collect all of the donations for transfer to the te mple. Once the hair is gathered and the pilgrims are gone, the temple sells the hair to hair factories like Raj Impex: Pioneers in the Human Hair Industry (see Figure 5-36). Raj Impex began as a simple minerals expor t company. But, after being contacted by Japanese and Koreans business in the market for human hair they changed the company focus to

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182 the export of hair. Making contac t with the company was difficul t and securing an interview and tour of the factory proved to be almost impossibl e. I submitted letters, made numerous calls, and drove past the company headquarters in my effort s to make contact with the owners. Eventually, however, my efforts paid off and I was granted an interview by the president of the company Mr. Benjamin Cherian. Mr. Cherian allowed me to co me to the main office and tour the small satellite factory which is located in the headquarters. He explained to me that I had been unsuccessful in attempting to secure an intervie w because I was calling the actual hair factory which is located outside of town and not the corporate office. Du ring our interview he said that he believes India exports hair worth about $300 million each year Cherian, a Harvard educated accountant said that he never expected hair would be such a lucrative business. But, the long hair from South India is in such demand that it k eeps the prices high. Additionally, for years hair from China was banned by the United States so th e demand for raw hair from the Indian market grew. Mr. Cherian also said that he believes that the majority of his products end up in the hands of women of African descent. Th e bulk of his products come fro m the Tiruparti temple I visited earlier in Andhra Pradesh. Donated hair is sorted into four cla ssifications; straight, curly, wavy, and silky (see Figures 5-37 to 5-38). But, the most expensive hair is know as remy because it is cut directly from the scalp and the hair has a clea r head and tail. Most of the hair collected from donations ends up being mixed togeth er so it is impossible to ma ke all of the heads and tails match, this causes the hair to tangle more fre quently and appear wavi er and less straight. However, remy hair has never been mixed up so it is much more costly. Remy hair also tends to be longer because women have waited for years to tonsure their hair. Mr. Cherian explained to me that the remy hair he was showing me would probably be sold to someone in Hollywood because the one weft of 48 inch long hair might cost upwards of

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183 $1500 dollars (see Figure 5-38). He speculated that a famous star would purchase this hair via one of the salons he exports to for a long extension job or perhaps even a wig. After the hair is sorted from head to tail and then organized for length it is processed and raked to ensure that it has a consistent appe arance and texture (see Figure 5-39). This is necessary because the hair that eventually is sewn together to form a weft for weaving, braiding, or other types of extensions, is a combination of contributions fr om several different women (see Figure 5-40). When I asked Mr. Cherian how much of the $300 million in Indian hair exports his company was responsible for he laughed and, not nearly enough. He said that he simply hoped that people continue to desire human hair over synthetic blends. This million dollar industry translates into a billion dolla r industry once the products reach women of African descent all over the world (see Figure 5-41) One of the most tangible indications that hair is important to women of African descent is the fact that their obsession with the extension of th eir natural hair lengt h has fueled a global market in the trade of human hair. To efface thei r egos women in South India sacrifice their hair after making sacred vows to their god. This sacrif ice is a symbol of the erasure of their pride because even they prize their hair. The hair is processed, packaged, and sold globally to be consumed by women of African descent in local markets. So this very local and personal sacrifice from one culture becomes embedded in the economic reality and culture of Africandescended women. Indian women use the hair to show humili ty and African-descended women purchase the hair to titiv ate themselves. With these diametri cally opposed goals hair becomes the contact point between two culture s. So although women of African descent in the United States make up less that ten percent of the population they account for 70 percent of the wigs and extensions and 33 percent of the hair car e products sold (Jones 2006; Ranen 2006).

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184 When I asked my research part icipants if they knew where th e human hair they covet so much originates, not one of them actually knew. Some women speculated that it may have come from Japan or Europe, and some even said that they had heard it was not really human hair, but horse hair. Then they would pull out a particularly coarse strand for me to examine as proof. But it doesnt really matter where the hair comes fr om, because the women of African descent use the hair to, transform their appearances and craft new identities [Reena Goldthree interview with author, July 2005]. Human hair is a form of material culture that re presents both sacrifice and transformation, it creates symbolic capita l for the Asian women who sacrifice and the African-descended women who purchase it. Moreover, it creates real capital for the Asians who sell it. One of the primary reasons that hair matters so much is because it serves such an important function both socially and economically. Hair ma tters because it makes and costs money and it makes and cost so much money because it matters. The circular logic involved in this thinking can only be defeated by revealing the true motives behind attaching so much meaning to hair. In America some of these motives can be traced to the fact that the beauty industry has been a fundamental financial component of many Black communities. Historically, the hair care industry has helped to foster financial independence during times of segregation and support to Black communities by serving as a major source of income for women and men of African descen t (Bundles 2001). The Black hair care market helped to create some of this communities first millionaires and the money made was oftentimes reinvested into the community (Bundles 2001). In 2004 sales of Black hair products exceed 1.7 billion dollars, not including synthetic and human hair (Jones 20 06). Beauticians and stylists are still highly segregated and the money spent in these shops us ually ends up in the hands of women who look

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185 like the purchasers. However, the traditionally Bl ack-owned hair care supply industry has been inundated with Korean owners and it is estimate d that in 2007 90 percent of the 8 billion dollar hair care and cosmetics industry is controlled by Koreans (Merritt 2007). A poignant example of this fact can be found in Tiffani Odiges approach to purchasing ha ir from Koreans. Tiffani is a Black woman in Cambridge, MA who estimates that she spends $2,500 to $3,000 a year on hair and hair products and she jokes about having to go to the Korean s to get her hair (Jones 2006). So women of African descent are fully aware that the hair care industry no longer provides the same level of financial benefit to their communit y, but they have been unable to relinquish the symbolic value placed on hair. Currently, Korean s control 80 percent of th e distribution of Black hair care products in America and 70 percent of the retail ma rket (Jones 2006; Ranen 2006). So although women of African descent are still the primary stylists, Koreans control the market for Black beauty supplies. So the level of importance attached to hair has no t declined even though it does not benefit their community in the same way it did in the past. This reality prompted me to investigate one of the last lines of revenue from hum an hair that is still situated within the Black community, hair braiding. Black Braiders Fight Hair braiding is one of the first cultural games you learn as a female child of African descent. Little girls are admonished, baby don t let anyone play in your hair, as they go to meet their playmates [Angela Blalock intervie w with author and daught er, May 2005]. Angelica had to be told this because playing in hair is a favored game that occasionally results in hair mishaps. New styles are achieved that had pr eviously only been tried on dolls, sometimes a lopsided haircut is given, but mostly the girls en gage in attempts at hair braiding perhaps even undoing hours of their mothers hard work. This funda mental play serves as the starting point for indoctrination into Black hair cu lture. Little girls l earn who has good hair and who has nappy

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186 or bad during these interactions They also begin to learn how to manipulate their ethnically derived hair texture. They emulate their mother s braiding styles and pr actice what they have experienced on their dolls and friends. This genera tional learning is the basis for the majority of the artistic cornrow and braid st yles we see on display in African communities. It only makes sense then that the research data in this project show that braids are c onsidered an ethnic or cultural hairstyle. So when I went to interview women in their homes I was not surprised to find little girls braiding each others hair in yards, and teenage girls earning fees for braiding younger girls hair. However, in many st ates these teenage girls who are practicing a fundamental element of their culture are breaking the law. They are breaking the law because in many states this type of interaction has been deemed illegal without a state license. Seventeen states have created licensing programs which require anyone who earns money from braiding hair to be trained as a cosmetologist or have some other type of state certification in order to braid hair. The problem with th is concept is that most states do not have institutions that offer training in th ese culturally transmitted techniques. So the states require braiders to be trained, but they dont actually have progr ams to train them. Seven states, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming, actually require hair braiders obtain a cosmetology or similar license wh ich typically requires t housands of dollars in tuition and 1000-2100 hours of non related training [Valerie Bayham interview with author, May 2005]. This hair braiding conundrum has created a s ituation where thousands of women break the law each day in order to become economically se lf-sufficient and earn a piece of this billion dollar hair industry. The licensing requirements are not only incompatible with the cultural norm; they are costly and time consuming. In some stat es you have to train long er to braid hair than

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187 you do to be a police officer or a fire fighter and the cost of the schools, who most often dont even teach the braiding techniques, range from five to 15 thousand dollars [Valerie Bayham, interview with author May 2005]. Or the states have vague laws that require registration and training that is not actu ally offered in the state. For example, in the state of South Carolina section 1, Chapter 7, Title 40 of the 1976 Code has been amended to state: Hair braiding registration requirements. (A) Only those individuals who are licensed to practice barbering or cosmetology or who are registered to pr actice hair braiding in this State may engage in the practice of hair braiding or perform ha ir braiding services in this State. (B) All implements used in connection w ith hair braiding must be disposable or must be sanitized in a disinfectant approved for hospital use or approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for commercial use. (C) To practice hair braiding in this State an individual shall: (1) apply to the board for registration in a manner prescribed by the board; (2) provide satisfactory proof of successful completion of a one-day, six-hour boardapproved hair braiding course; (3) pass an examination administered by the board; and (4) pay a twenty-five dollar registration fee. (D ) The hair braiding course shall include instruction regarding: (1) sanitation and sterilization including: (a) universal sanitation and sterilization precautions; (b) how to distinguish between disi nfectants and antiseptics; and (c) how to sanitize hands and disinfect tools used in the practice of hair braiding; (2) disorders and diseases of the scalp, includi ng: (a) how to disti nguish between these disorders and diseases; and (b) when hair brai ding services can be performed on a client with disorders or diseases of the scalp; (3 ) where and when an individual may legally practice hair braiding; and (4) the procedures, fees, and requirements for renewal of a hair braiding registration. (E) Registration to practice hair brai ding is valid for two years or until the end of the biennial licensure renewal cy cle in which the registration is first issued, whichever occurs first. The holder of a registra tion to practice hair br aiding shall renew his or her registration by paying the renewal fee. (F) An individual curr ently engaging in the practice of hair braiding on the effective date of this act has one year from the effective date to complete the registrati on requirements as provided for in this section." . 'Hair braiding' means the weaving or interweavi ng of natural human hair for compensation without cutting, coloring, permanent waving, relaxing, removing, or chemical treatment and does not include the use of hair extensions or wefts." Now the first problem with this regulation is th e fact that the state licensing agency does not seem to be aware they exist. When I contacted the cosmetology board and requested information about obtaining the pr oper training, certification, and paying the fee for licensure I was informed that I did not need anything to brai d hair in the state of South Carolina and I could just practice the art of hair br aiding in the state (see Appendix B). However, the beauty shops

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188 where I conducted my participant observation we re shocked by this email because they had already been questioned by the board of cosmetology about the hair braiders they employ in their shop. The second problem with the law is that at the time I requested information, there was no agency or school that offered a simple hair brai ding course. I was told time and time again that I would have to pay thousands of dollars to enro ll in the cosmetology scho ol for the duration of the course, in order to gain the hair braiding in struction. Then when I asked about the extent of the instruction on hair braiding I was told that it was not actually a part of the training. Finally, the third major problem with the code is that it specifically prohibits the us e of hair extensions by hair braiders. This prohibition makes the license useless for most women of African descent who are practicing natural hair brai ding because the majority of the braiding techniques require human or synthetic hair additions. So in essence the law simply grants teenagers and other women who might be braiding hair as a hobby the right to braid hair with the appropriate training and licensure. Anyone intere sted in actually engaging in braiding the hair of women of African descent as a profession would be severely limited by their inability to utilize human or synthetic hair additions. Of course the law ha s not dissuaded women from engaging in this practice; however there is always the possibility that these wome n who are practicing a part of their cultural heritage may end up being investig ated and possibly prosecuted. All of these state tactics have created a barrier to the individuals right to earn a living from the culturally transmitted practice of hair braiding. This has ca used several lawsuits and slowly braiders are attempting to win back their rights to be econom ically self sufficient and independent business owners. Interviewing Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah, owner of one of th e oldest African braiding salons in the Washington, DC area, I lear ned that he and his wife had b een victimized by the Districts

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189 cosmetology board. Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah and hi s wife Pamela Ferrell began their business, Cornrows & Co., when braiding became popular among African American women in the 1980s. Wanting to provide African American women with the most authentic African braids possible, they made it possible for poor women from Daka r, Senegal in Africa to relocate to the Washington, DC area and work as hair braiders in their shop. This exch ange program paved the way for many of the African braiders who still live and work in the United States today. As Cornrows & Co. thrived it drew the atte ntion of the local cosmetology board and in 1982 they were notified that they were in violat ion of a 1938 District ordi nance that requires all stylists in a salon to have va lid cosmetology licenses. In orde r to obtain the required licenses Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah would have to pay $50 00 per braider who would then be required to complete 1500 hours of training and testing, non e of which included African hair braiding [Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah interv iew with author, May 2005]. Ta alib-Din Abdul Uqdah fought against this requirement that was clearly culturall y insensitive for over ten years. It simply did not make sense to them that they should be fo rcing women who had learned the cultural tradition of hair braiding from their mothers, sisters, a nd aunts to now be trained to apply chemicals to natural African textured hair. Hair braiding is an art form that they had brought from their villages and cities in Africa to share with African American wome n, but the District attempted to force these women to learn how to chemically alter hair in order to practice their art. Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah said, they could fine me, they could put me in jail but I was not about to force these women to destroy their culture to satisf y the board of cosmetology[ Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah interview with author, May 2005]. The board wanted to impose an antiquated law on the hair braiders, even though the practices and techniques contained in the 1938 cosmetology stat ute have nothing to do with and

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190 are in fact diametrically opposed to the centuries-old ar t of African hairsty ling (Bolick and Legge 2004). Stacy Pyles, director of a film called Combing Out the Kinks which is about black hairstyling says, It is ridiculous that the state is trying to regulate an act of culture, hair braiding is a cultural bond that is taught between moth ers and daughters, aunts and nieces (Hubbard 1999). The board cited the health and safety of the public as their rati onale for attempting to enforce this regulation; however they were unable to show that unlicensed hair braiding had any affect on the health and safety of the public [Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah interview with author, May 2005]. An example of how these problems are continuing is highlighted by Sheron Campbell owner of World of Braids in Oakla nd, CA who says, cosmetology school is, a waste of time . I went to cosmetology school for 1,600 hours and paid over $6,000 and they didn't teach one thing about braidingI don't see how the state can enforce something they don't teach (Hubbard 1999:1). Eventually, Taalib-Din Abdul Uqdah prevailed, with the help of lawyers from the Institute for Justice, a non-prof it law firm that works to preserve individual liberty and economic freedom. During his fight U qdah founded the American Hair Braiders and Natural Haircare Association (AHNHA) to help e ducate braiders and the public about natural hair care. Uqdahs victory has been far-reaching and braiders all over the United States have been inspired to litigate thei r cases (Bolick and Legge 2004). Conclusion This chapter serves as a summary of the surv ey and experimental da ta collected during the research. This data reveal some conflicting me ssages about the Black ha ir culture domain. Some of the data gathered seems to indicate that ther e is no cultural domain fo r Black hair, while other portions of the data transmit exactly the opposite message. In this chapter I have reviewed the demographics associated with the two onlin e data collection met hods I employed. Then I summarized and discussed the data collected online and in the experiment. This section revealed

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191 that although women say they dont spend money on hair products and services when asked in a survey, they have been observed spending an average of $190 every six weeks when they have their hair relaxed and washed and set regularly. Furthermore, when women say that hair is not symbolic of politics, religion, or socioeconomic cl ass they may be answering in ways that they think are appropriate instead of truthful. This chapter revealed that while women dont believe that relaxers are the best thing in the world, they dont desire na ppy hair and they believe that nappy hair is unprofessional. The women said that they did not think hair is connected to how you are perceived racially, but then they were clear that certain hairstyles, like dreadlocks marked the wearer as being more ethnic, radica l, and less religious. Ulti mately, the experiment results show that hairstyle, color, and lengt h can radically change the wearers perceived attractiveness, religion, education, professionalism a nd social class. In this chapter I also review how women of African descent are tied economically to Asia via th e human hair trade from India and the Korean control of the beauty supply in dustry. Ultimately, documenting the political economy of hair revealed how wo men of African descent struggle to earn their share of the billion dollar hair care in dustry as professional braiders desp ite governmental roadblocks. All of these issues point to the importan ce of hair for women of African descent and in the next chapter I will discuss how these concepts work together to create a cultural domain of hair.

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192 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 North EastSouthMidwestWestU.SterritoryOther 18-30 31-40 41-50 51-6Over 61 Figure 5-1 Age by Geography.

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193 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 0-10k10.1k-30k31-50k51-100kover 100k IncomeAge 18-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61 up Figure 5-2 Age by Income chart.

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194 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 AfroBraidsCornrowDreadsHot Comb KnotsNaturalPress Curl PermTwistsWeaveStyleNumber of Women Figure 5-3 Responde nts Hairstyles.

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195 020406080100120140160180 Number Natural ProcessedTypeRespondent Hair Style Type Figure 5-4 Respondent by Hairstyle Type.

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196 020406080100120140160 Hcare HNotRelax Heasy RelaxerG NatBadCodeNumber of Answers Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree Figure 5-5 Hair=Pain Chart.

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197 Figure 5-6 Ashley McCants. Photograph courtesy of Amber Smith and Sybil Dione Rosado. This is a photograph of 9-year-old Ashlee McCants. I choose this picture because its natural and very common for children Ashlee s age to wear ponytails. The hairstyle to me means saving time and mother or hairst ylist is very considerate of creating a hairstyle fit for a little kid. This say a lot to a community especially the black community often young girls grow up too fast this hairstyle allows young Ashlee to be cute while still looking her age. The ponyt ail is one of the oldest and convenient hairstyles known to hair. It is easy to ma intain and very low maintenance. In this photo Ashlee adds a twist to her long tales she has rollers at the ends, which will create a curly effect. Perfect fo r a day at school or church. Amber Smith, Benedict College Student response to di gital storytelling assignment.

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198 Figure 5-7 Girls in beauty shop in Ghana, We st Africa. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

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199 Strongly Dissagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree S1 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 Level of AgreementNumber of Women Figure 5-8 Level of Agreement for definition of Good Hair. Agreement with definition of Good hair: Hair that is easy to comb because it is straight, silky and does not have tight curls.

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200 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 Stongly DisagreeDisagreeAgreeStrongly Agree Level of AgreementNumber of Women Figure 5-9 Level of Agreement for definition of Nappy hair. Agreement with definition of Nappy hair: Hair that is diffi cult to comb because it is very curly and cotton like.

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201 Figure 5-10 Proximity graph for attractiveness of hairstyles.

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202 Figure 5-11 Proximity graph for soci al acceptability of hairstyles.

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203 Figure 5-12 Proximity graph for questi on, What is a Professional Hairstyle?

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204 020406080100120140160180 H=RacePride H=politics Relax=no pride Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree Figure 5-13 Hair=Identity

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205 Figure 5-14 Least Ethnic Hairstyles

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206 Figure 5-15 Zena Solomon. Photograph cour tesy of Sybil Dione Rosado. Zena Solomon hairstyle is a different style of her usual fashion. She is a quiet single mom and does not partake in the current affairs of the world news. She mostly concentrates on the well-being of her young daughter. Her hair most of the time is very conservative and simple. I think that her hair on this night is the personality of someone else. She usually does not have much too say and stay s mostly at home and stays to herself and daughter. Unidentified undergraduate student re sponse to digital storytelling assignment at Benedict College.

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207 Figure 5-16 Julia Williams. Photograph courtesy of Marquise Jackson and Sybil Dione Rosado. I selected this photo because this girl had very pretty hair. This pa rticular hairstyle to me seems to make her look younger. The leng th of her hair suggests that she takes care of her hair. When a girl has long hair it seems like her mother didnt neglect her hair when she was younger. The color of her hair is black. This makes her appearance seem more natural. Julias hair is very straight and it seems she gets perms from someone who knows what they are doing. Her hair doesnt say anything to me about her political standpoint. The neatness and fr eshness of her style makes her seem like a very sociable person. I seems like she ha s many friends and people she communicates with because her hair was really neat. The st yle of her hair says she is from a middle class family. Julias hair is very pret ty and makes her look very attractive. Marquise Jackson student response to digita l storytelling assignment at Benedict College.

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208 Figure 5-17 Photo 1 from online experiment. Phot o 1 came in second as the hair most likely to be the models real hair ( 20 percent). Student (30 percen t), Politically apathetic (36 percent), Less than one year of college ( 41 percent), Christian (93 percent), leisure activities dance club (26 percent) or cel l phone (24 percent), and poor or working poor (60 percent).

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209 Figure 5-18 Photo 2 from online experiment. Work ing Poor or working cl ass (69 percent), retail worker (24 percent), College but no degree (26 percent), femi nist (36 percent) spends time at club (18 percent) a nd doing nails (17 percent).

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210 Figure 5-19 Photo 3 from online experiment. P oor (46 percent) or wo rking poor (33 percent), Food service (35 percent) or Unemployed ( 21 percent), High school is highest level of education (63 percent), Politically apathe tic (30 percent), spends time at clubs (54 percent) and watching TV (24 percent).

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211 Figure 5-20 Photo 4 from online experiment. Phot o 4 was believed to be the models real hair (33 percent). Working class (32 percent), co llege student (38 percent) who may have a terminal degree (21 percent), Black femini st (34 percent) who spends time reading (37 percent).

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212 Figure 5-21 Photo 5 from online experiment. Working poor or working class (60 percent), college educated (40 percent), politically apathetic (27 percent) who spends time on hair and nails (29 percent) and go ing to dance clubs (21 percent).

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213 Figure 5-22 Photo 6 from online experiment. Photo 6 was the second most ghetto person (15 percent). She is poor (43 percent), work s in food service ( 31 percent) or is unemployed (21 percent), high school student (31 percent) Politically apathetic (35 percent), who spends her free tim e in dance clubs (21 percent).

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214 Figure 5-23 Photo 7 from online experiment. Working Class (27 percen t) or working poor (26 percent), student (21 per cent), who may be working on a graduate degree (28 percent). Black Nationalists (37 percent), pr obably not a Christian (51 percent), who spends her free time reading (38 percent).

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215 Figure 5-24 Photo 8 from online experiment. Photo 8 was voted as the most professional person (72percent). Photo 8 was also voted as th e most conservative person (30percent), Photo 8 was also voted as the most attract ive person (50percent). Thirty four percent of the respondents thought she was worki ng class, 21 percent thought middle class, 24 percent said she has a pr ofessional career, 23 percent said she was a college graduate, Contemporary liberal (30 percent) Christian (84 percent), spends leisure time getting nails done (21 percent), shopping (20 percent), and going to the gym (19 percent).

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216 Figure 5-25 Photo 9 from online experiment. Work ing class (30 percent), student (22 percent), liberal (27 percent), Christian (80 percen t), who spends free time watching TV (22 percent).

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217 Figure 5-26 Photo 10 from online experiment. Poor (32 percent) or working poor (32 percent), working in food service (21 percent), with a high school educatio n (30 percent). She is a Christian (78 percent), who is politically apathetic (32 percent), and she spends her free time going to clubs (32 percent), and getting her nails done (24 percent).

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218 Figure 5-27 Photo 11 from online e xperiment. Photo 11 was voted to be the most Ghetto person. She is poor (33 percent) or working poor (31 percent), she has a job in the adult entertainment industry (22 percent), or sh e is unemployed (17 percent). Her highest education is high school (52 pe rcent), she is politically apathetic (31 percent) and she is a Christian who spends her free time in clubs (35 percent) and getting her hair and nails done (21 percent).

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219 Figure 5-28 Photo 12 from online experiment Photo 12 was voted to be the second most professional person (36percent), Photo 12 was voted to be the second most conservative person (20percent). In this phot o she is the richest and best educated. She is a middle class (21 percent), woman with a professional career (27 percent), who graduated from college (24 percent) and may have a Masters degree (15 percent). She is a liberal (32 percent) Chri stian (83 percent) w ho enjoys reading (26 percent) and exercising (20 percent) in her free time.

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220 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 Under 1818-2425-4445-60Over 60 Figure 5-29 Experiment Respondent Age.

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221 Figure 5-30 Sign adorning Kalyana Katta, the four story building wh ere hair tonsuring is conducted.

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222 Figure 5-31 Sign directing devot ees to tonsure line inside te mple grounds outside Kalyana Katta. Figure 5-32 Tonsuring outside of the temple.

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223 Figure 5-33 Hair being sw ept together for donation. Figure 5-34 Post-tonsure photo of a small child.

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224 Figure 5-35 Hat vendors outsi de of Kalyana Katta Figure 5-36 Main headquarters of Raj Impex.

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225 Figure 5-37 Women sorting ha ir in Raj Impex factory. Figure 5-38 Different textures of hair at Raj Impex, with long remy hair in the middle.

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226 Figure 5-39 Hair being ra ked and tided off for sale at Raj Impex India. Figure 5-40 Human hair ready for packaging and export at Raj Impex.

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227 Figure 5-41 Synthetic hair for sale in Accra market in Ghana, West Africa.

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228 CHAPTER 6 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS The Hair Someone told me this morning th ey feel sorry for my plight An hour and a half curling my hair ? Its as long as taking a flight! I was insulted by the notion that someone might feel sorry for me I guess she doesnt realize what sh e or her hair could really be I wear it curly when I feel like being bad Im sorry if my sexiness makes you feel a little mad I wear it straight when Im feeling low-key It brings out the seduc tion deep within me I slick and highlight in the spri ng to go with the flowers blooming. I bring out reds in the fall when the cold is slowly looming. I never wear it the same, no matter how hard you look My hair is like the different ch apters of a very beautiful book. Am I high-maintenance? Do I waste a lot of time? Hell yes! Thats why Ill always look like Im in my prime! I guess the sorriest thing of all is that others dont realize Just how important your hair can be if you just accessorize Different hair for different m oods, but never looking the same If I had to wear my hair just one way, girlfriend, Id go insane! I wear it straight and slee k when my mood turns mellow With golden colors that turn heads all around I wear it curly when I feel like being bad And better-looking hair just cant be found! --Sili Recio, poem written in response to a nega tive comment made by a co-worker about how difficult it was to maintain her hair (see Figure 6-1 the faces of Sili) Introduction Just as individual strands of ha ir are commingled and woven t ogether to form the intricate braid patterns found in cornrows, the rituals, symbols, and beliefs experienced by women of African descent can be viewed as the building bl ocks that work together to form the cultural

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229 domain of Black hair. Unbraiding these social co nstructs requires me to discuss the cultural domain of hair in different sections. First I wi ll outline what I call the conceptual framework of Black hair, then in the second section, I review the findings unc overed by this study and discuss the contradictions and continui ty among the interviews, focus groups, and survey results that became apparent during the data analysis phase. It is here that I outline the cultural domain of Black hair. Then third, I present a section entitled I am not my hair. In this third and final section of both this chapter a nd dissertation I summarize the fi ndings, and suggest avenues for future research. Overall the main goal of this chapter is to explai n the symbolic meaning attributed to hair and hairstyl es while highlighting how these meanings influence notions of power, domination, and social c ontrol as they are employed by women of African descent. Conceptual Framework for Cult ural Domain of Black Hair The conceptual framework for the cultural domai n of Black hair begins with the rituals, symbols, and beliefs that serve as its basic co mponents (see Figure 6-2 conceptual framework). First the experiences that bind women of African descent together in this cultural domain are summarized in the rituals they perform surrounding their hair on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Hair combing, washing, and processing rituals take on extremely similar patters among African-descended women throughout the Diaspora. Th e first major component of this ritual is pain. Take for example the five year old twin s Dezare and Jare Smith who told me in unison, we dont like getting our hair washed, it hurts, but we get used to it [Dezare and Jare Smith interview with author June 2006]. At five these gi rls have already been indoctrinated into Black hair culture. They know that they must endure the pain associated with having their hair washed, combed, and pressed with a hot comb, in order to be beautiful. But, more importantly they know that they must endure this pain in order to be acceptable because they have learned that their grandmother thinks they are so much sweeter when they have their hair done. Similarly in the

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230 Dominican Republic girls are told cabello bonito, aguanta jalones (You want pretty hair? Deal with the painful pulling). Women from Brazil, Pu erto Rico, Ghana, and the United States all reported similar experiences with painful applicati ons of chemicals, long tedious sessions of hair braiding and the daily rituals su rrounding hair care maintenance. However, embedded in these painful rituals are stories of bonding, love, and si sterhood. Women recounted elaborate stories to me about the relationships developed and mainta ined during and through these hair dressing sessions. The participants also explained how spending time at the beauty shop could teach you all about a community because this is where wome n felt comfortable sharing the intimate details of their lives with total strangers. So the pain and pleasure associated w ith hairstyling serve as the first components of the conceptual framework of the Black hair domain. While engaging in the rituals of the Black ha ir domain, African-descended women begin to learn the symbols associated with hair texture a nd styles. The women tacitly learn the meaning of these symbols through their particip ation in the rituals. As they struggle with painful combing sessions and learn to hold the base of their hair while the ends are being combed, they also begin to absorb the meanings associated with good an d nappy hair. The degree of pain they experience during this hair combing ritual might be directly related to how good or st raight their hair is versus how nappy it is purported to be. The women learn that nappy hair is painful to comb and good hair is not. This lesson translates into an assignment of positive value to good or Caucasian type hair and the devaluation of hair that is classified as na ppy or African t ype hair. Women learn that having nappy hair is a physical indication of your Afri can heritage and that having straight or good hair indi cates that you are of mixed heritage. Hair texture as a symbol of race serves as the second major component of the Black hair cultural domain.

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231 Conceptual Framework for Black Hair Texturocracy Hair texture, styles, length, and color are critical factors in an African-descended womans access to social economic and cultural capital. Thes e elements of the hair domain are critical because they all are related to the beliefs created by the symbol s of good and bad hair discussed above. I call this hierarchical system a texturocracy and this texturocracy functions as the primary component of the conceptual framework of the Black hair cultural domain. Hair texture is the first filter through which symbols about go od and bad or nappy Black hair are translated into beliefs and actions. The symbolically good ha ir is manipulated differently than the nappy hair because good hair is believed to be easier to deal with. This believed ease translates into good hair being valued more than nappy hair and th is is why 72 percent of the respondents to the online survey said that they think women of African descent would prefer to have good or straight hair. This belief system is extended to in clude hairstyle, hair length, and hair color which all act in unison to enhance the social, econom ic, and cultural capital for women of African descent. In this domain once the womans hair te xture, style, length, and color are assessed the system grants her varying levels of social, ec onomic, and cultural capital which are used to augment her perceived attractiveness, declar e her sexual orientati on, religion, level of professionalism, and ultimately her racial a nd social identity. Fo llowing Foucault (1979), Bourdieu (1986), and Firth (1973a) it is easy to conclude that straight hair functions as a powerful form of social, cultural, and economic capital for women of Afri can descent (see Figure 6-3 Conceptual Framework for Black hair Texturocracy). Comparing and Contrasting the Survey Re sults: Contradictions and Continuity Five primary groups of hairstyle types emer ged from the experiment photos. Short colored hair, medium length colored hair, medium length natural colored hair, natural hairstyles, and

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232 long hair. I will discuss the symbolic meaning that each of these five hairstyles types created in combination with hair lengths and colors. First, short colored straight hair such as in photos one and three (see Figures 5-17 and 519) marked the wearer as a poor woman who work s in the food service industry and has very little education. These two hairstyl es were interpreted as making the wearer more likely to spend her free time in clubs, watching television or on th e cell phone. Therefore, it can be inferred that wearing short colored hair symbolizes that the we arer is a member of a low socioeconomic class based on her lack of education, small in come and limited social interests. Second, medium length colored hair as show n in experiment photos five, six, ten, and eleven (see Figures 5-21, 5-22, 526 and 5-27) had a slightly diffe rent effect on observers. While all of these photos were seen to portray a poor woman having burgundy colored hair seems to greatly influence her perceived profession. So in photos six and ten (see Figures 5-22 and 5-26), the model was identified as being a food service worker. Whereas, in photo five (see Figure 521), the participants beli eved that the model was probably a student. But, interestingly in photo 11 (see Figure 5-27), the only photo of her with bl onde hair, she is believed to be employed in the entertainment (adult) industry. In all of th ese photos her perceived leisure time is spent having her hair and nails done or going to dance cl ubs. These varying opinions of the model that change based or her hairstyle a nd color indicate that symbolic m eanings are attached to these elements. In this example medium length colored hair that is an unusual color marks the wearer as being uneducated and working in food service or other low income jobs. Changing the color of her hair from burgundy to light brown, as seen in photo number 5 (see Figure 5-21), changed her symbolic meaning and her profession became student. But, changing that color to blond made her appear to be employed in the entertai nment industry. These changes indicate that hair

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233 color is a salient factor used by women of African descent to identi fy the socioeconomic status of other women within this cultural domain. Natural looking hair colors seem to increase the womans perceived socioeconomic status, light colors seem to decrease it slightly, and unusual or bright colors seem to decrease it dramatically. Third, this theory may be confirmed by exam ining the photos grouped together as medium length natural color photo 2 and 9 (see Figures 518 and 5-25). In these photos the model appears with medium length straight and curly hair, but she is perceived as working class instead of poor. So having a natural looking hair color increases her perceived ec onomic status. Furthermore, in these photos she is seen as a retail worker or student who still spends her time going to clubs, having her nails done, and watching television. So w ith a natural hair color the main thing that changed was her projected or sy mbolized socioeconomic status. Fourth, photos eight and twelve (see Figures 5-24 and 5-28) are grouped together as long hair. These photographs were perceived as being significantly different from all of the other pictures in the experiment. These long haired appearances symbolized that the wearers were working or middle class. This is important because these were they only photos where a significant number of participan ts thought that the model was well off financially. Similarly, these are the only photos where the participan ts believed that the model could be in a professional career and probably a college graduate. These are also the only photos where a significant number of participants thought that the woman would sp end part of her leisure time exercising. So in this cultural domain maintaining long hair seems to help craft an identity of wealth, professionalism, education, and health consciousness, for the wearer. Finally, in the styles where the hair appears to be natural or nappy, as in photos four and seven (see Figures 5-20 and 5-23) the participants opinion of the model changes dramatically.

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234 These hairstyles seem to hold strong symbolic m eaning for the respondents. With natural hair the models perceived inco me moves from being primarily poor to symbolizing working class values. Her perceived educational level and prof ession also increase with natural looking hair. She is now seen as an advanced college or grad uate level student. In terestingly, instead of spending her free time in clubs like the other photos, the respondents be lieve that the woman with natural hair probably spends her free tim e reading. Furthermore, it is believed that the model wearing natural hair is more politically acti ve as a black nationalist, or feminist. But, the photo with the model wearing dreadlocks is seen as the most politically ra dical and only type A personality out of all of the phot os. But the most startling statis tic revealed by the analysis of these photos shows that when the model has dreadloc ks she is seen as being the most unlikely to be a Christian. The other natural hairstyle also is seen as being non-Christian. These two photos have the lowest percentages of people who belie ve they are Christians. So for some reason having naturally styled hair seems to symboli ze that a woman of Afri can descent is not a Christian. Conclusion: I Am Not My Hair Despite the fact that Indie Arie sings ferven tly that she and women of African descent are not their hair, this disserta tion questions the premise of her song title. She may say she thinks that she is not her hair, but what do other wo men of African descent think? Uncovering the beliefs held by women of African descent concerning their hair was the main objective in this research. As Ingrid Banks will tell you, hair matte rs. But, what we have learned is that hair matters because it has a distinct cultural domain. The rituals, sym bols, and beliefs about and for Black hair form the core components of the Blac k hair domain. Moreover, there is a texturocracy within this domain that functions to analyze a Bl ack womans hair texture, style, length and color in order to assess her access to social, economic, and cultural capital. For Black women hair is

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235 more than an aesthetic presentation. It is a wa y to signal detailed acc ounts of your identity to other women who are participants in the same cu ltural domain. Domain participants believe that the texture of a Black womans hair provides insight into her ancestry and socioeconomic background, while the hairstyle and color serve as indicators of educational level, profession, socioeconomic status and religion. This research project benefited from the combination of methods that were employed to glean the data Going beyond the interviews, focus groups and surveys and actually conducting an experiment added a dimension to the work that would have been otherwise undetectable. Additionally, women of African descent have been long-standing participants as informants in social science re search and during these re lationships they have learned how to present a buena presencia (good appearance) to researchers, which may inhibit the veracity of any project. This is another reason the experiment proved to be so beneficial. The experiment in this project allowed me to interrogate both the wome ns unconsciously hidden beliefs and their conscious omissions. But, there were numerous hurdles to cross in this project. One problem stemmed from the fact that women a ssumed that as a participant in the culture I had knowledge about the domain and they were not as detailed in their descriptions during interviews. Many times conversations revolve d around my asking, what does that mean? and the participant respondin g, well you know. I had to actively work at getting women to fully explain concepts instead of allowing them to depend on my understanding of the terms. Additionally, because of the us e of the Internet, the study was slanted towards young women who were computer literate. Finally, although wo men from all around the globe participated in the online research the majority of the women we re from the American South and this may mean that this group of women controlled the survey results more than I anticipated.

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236 This research lays the groundw ork for investigation into th e cultural domain of hair on several different levels. First this research should be replicated in different geographical areas in the African Diaspora and eventually in any area where women self identify themselves as being of African descent. This type of replication will help to expand or contract the parameters of what I have outlined as the cultural domain of Black hair. Futhermore, this type of cross cultural analysis the African Diaspora w ould be beneficial to the area s of Diaspora and Black studies. Another avenue of research that should be e xplored is the relations hip between hairstyling methods and chronic illness. Seve ral of the beauty rituals that women of African descent engage in involve chemicals that may be adversely in fluencing this populati ons health. Moreover, given the fact that most of the women in the study admitted that they were reluctant to exercise because sweat and chlorine damaged their hair, wh at influence do these factors have on incidents of obesity among African descended women? Fina lly, this future research should explore the impact of religion and religiosity on the rituals and beliefs I uncovered. My findings and conclusions s hould have saliency for the existing body of scholarship on African Diasporan identities in the disciplines of anthropology, and Bl ack and Africana Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and Cultural Studies. Ultimately, my research attempted to explore and document a current method of local and global self identification. I i nvestigated the rituals and symbols that may serve to bind African descended women together as a Diasporan community. Recording contemporary cultural norms will assist future scholars to track the development of identification strategies among African descended women. Human hair is a symbolically and economically valuable commodity that is used to transform womens lives spiritually and physically. Ultimately, this resear ch and the work of my predecessors imply that all we need to know about Black people can be learned from looking at their hair. Given the

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237 level of importance women of Af rican descent accord their hairst yles and textures perhaps we should begin to think, I am not my hair . or am I?

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238 Figure 6-1 The many faces of Sili Recio collage. Photographs courtesy of Sili Recio.

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239 Figure 6-2 Conceptual Framewor k for Black hair domain. This conceptual framework for the Black hair domain is based on the research presented in this dissertation. This study revealed that the rituals women engage in concerning their hair help outline the symbolic meaning attributed to hair texture and ha irstyles in this culture. Finally, the belief system crafted from these rituals a nd symbols helps to re inforce the value of the rituals and symbols by turning particul ar combinations of hair texture and hairstyles into social, cult ural, and economic capital. Factor 1 Hair Rituals Hair Pain=Beauty Hair ritual =Happiness Hair Maintenance =Time& Money Beauty shops Factor 2 Hair Symbols Good n Bad hair Hair = sex attract Hair =class Hair =professionalism Hair=race & identity Hair=religion Factor 3 Hair Beliefs Texturocracy based on Hair texture Hairstyle Hair length Hair color Hair=capital

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240 Hair Texture Hairstyle Hair Color Hair Length Natural looking Light Unusual Relaxer Weave Twists/braids Short Natural Cornrow Dreads Jheri Curl Long Medium Short Bad Nappy Good/ Straight Figure 6-3. Conceptual framewor k for Black hair texturocracy. In this conceptual framework items that are closer to the center circle s are associated with having more social capital, while items on the periphery of the circles are granted less social capital. As the areas commingle the level of social, economic, and cultural capital changes.

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241 APPENDIX A VIEW OUR HAIR STORY ASSIGNMENT View Our Hair Story Photo Survey Final Exam Materials: 1 Disposable Camera Addresses and Phone Numbers of all people photographed Photo Log Release Forms Directions: 1. Obtain access to a camera; it can be disposable or your own. I only need you to be able to take 10 photographs of people. 2. Take photographs of people in your environmen t these people should serve as examples of different types of hair colo r, texture, and hairstyles. 3. Fill out the photo release form for each phot ograph you take. You should get the name and address of each person you take a phot ograph of and have them sign the photo release form. The only time you do not need a release form is when you take a photograph of a crowd of people in a public pl ace. When you take a pho to of a crowd of people you should identify where you took the p hotograph and when, date, time, type of event, event name. Give me as mu ch information as you possibly can. Photos without the signed photo release forms will not be counted toward your grade. (You should take photos of people in thei r natural environments at home, at work, school, the club, anywhere you feel is a part of your co mmunity and a reflection of your life. 4. After you take the photos you have them developed and then for each photo from number 1-10 you should attach the release form and the photo information which will have the names of subjects, date photographed etc. 5. You will then complete a 1 page rationale a nd analysis of each of the 10 photos you take. 6. Think about the following questions when you take photos of different people and their hair: a. Do different hairstyles have different meanings? b. Do different hair lengths have different meanings? c. Do different hair colors have different meanings? d. Do different hair textures have different meaning? e. Does hair says anythi ng about you politically? f. Does hair say anything about you socially? g. Does hair say anything about you economically? h. What does hair say? i. What do you think of your hair? These questions can help you write your rationa le and analysis for each photo. I want to know why you selected the photo, what it means to you and what you think it means to others in your community.

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242 7. You may turn in this assignment on Decem ber 9, 2003 from 2-5 pm in my office at 317 FAH. I will check your note cards wh en you turn in your assignment. This project is worth 200 points. Late assignments will not be accepted

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243 APPENDIX B EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WI TH STATE OF SOUTH CA ROLINA COSMETOLOGY BOARD 11/1/2004 Dear Ms. Rosado: I had a note to place you on the mailing list for information when if or when it becomes available. Presently, there is no information to disburse other than you do not need a license to practice braiding in this state. You may not use chemicals or perform other hair care se rvices. Currently, you may practice just braiding anywhere in this state. Sincerely, NAME DELETED Asst. Administrator -----Original Message----From: Sybil Rosado [mailto:srosado@earthlink.net] Sent: October 29, 2004 1:19 AM To: SC BOARD OF COSMETOLOGY Subject: Hair Braiding Dear Ms. NAME DELETED, I am very interested in getting registered to be a hair brai der in SC. Where would I find the approved course here in south Carolina? I have called several schools and they do no t know anything about hair braiding. I don't want to do a full cosmetology course in order to braid hair and I wanted to know where to go and what to do. Please help me. Thanks Sybil Sybil Rosado srosado@earthlink.net Why Wait? Move to EarthLink.

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244 LIST OF REFERENCES Adams, Robert L. 2006 History at the Crossroads: Vod a nd the Modernization of the Dominican Borderlands. In Globalization and Race: Transforma tions in the Cultural Production of Blackness. K.M. Clarke and D.A. Thomas eds. Pp. 55-72. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Adebajo, SB 2002 An epidemiological survey of the us e of cosmetic skin lightening cosmetics among traders in Lagos, Nigeria. West Af rican Journal of Medicine 21(1):51-55. Akbari, Lisa 2002 The black woman's guide to beautiful hair: a positive approach to managing any hair and style. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks. Allahar, Anton 1993 When Black First Became Worth Less International Jour nal of Comparative Sociology 34(1-2):39-54. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated 2004 Membership Profile. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorori ty, Incorporated. Electronic document, http://www.aka1908.com/p resent/membership/, accessed March 16, 2007. Archer, Elsie 1968 Let's face it; the guide to good groomi ng for girls of color. Philadelphia: Lippincott. Armstrong, Tim, Studies Corp Author: British Association for American, and Conference 1996 American bodies : cultural historie s of the physique. Washington Square, New York: New York University Press. Ashe, B. D. 1995 "Why don't he like my hair?": Constr ucting African-American Standards of Beauty in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. African American review 29(4):579. Assisi, Frances 2004 Color Complex in the South Asian Diaspora. In model minority: A guide to Asian American Empowerment. Electronic document, http://modelminority.com/modules.php?name =News&file=artic le&sid=821, accessed March 16, 2007.

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245 Atlas, Coren 2005 The Hair Parties Project Case Study: Urban Bush Women. In Arts-Based Civic Dialogue in Action: Case Studies From Anim ating Democracy. P. Korza and B.S. Bacon, eds: Animating Democracy. Azibo, D.A. 1983 Perceived Attractiveness and the Blac k Personality. Western Journal of Black Studies 7(4):229-238. Azoulay, Katya Gibel 1997 Black, Jewish, and Interracial: It's Not the Color of Your Skin but the Race of Your Kin, and Other Myths of Identity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Babino, Ada M., et al. 1995 Middle passage-n-roots.30 min. New York, NY: Carousel Film & Video. Baker, John 1974 The Hottentot Venus. In Race. J.R. Baker, ed. Pp. 313-319. Athens: Oxford University Press. Baker, Lee 1998 From Savage to Negro: Anthropol ogy and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954. Berkley, CA: University of California Press. Banks, Ingrid 1997 Social and Personal Constructions of Ha ir: Cultural Practices and Belief Systems Among African American Women. Ph. D. dissert ation, Ethnic Studies, University of California. 2000 Hair Matters : Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness. New York: New York University Press. Barker, Joe 2006 Finding Information on the Internet: A Tu torial. Berkley: University of Berkley. Electronic document, http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/G uides/Internet/FindInfo.html, accessed December 15, 2006. Barrow, Alberto 2006 No Me Pidas Una Foto Develando El Racismo En Panam. Panama: auspiciado por el Centro de Informacin de Naciones Unidas-Panam. Baum, Andrew, Tracey Revenson, and Jerome Singer 2001 Handbook of Health Psychology. Mahwa h, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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246 Bell-Scott, Patricia 1994 Life notes : personal writings by co ntemporary Black women. New York: W.W. Norton. Bell, Derrick 1992 Faces at the Bottom of the Well. New York: Basic Books. Benedict, College 2005 Facts and Figures Summary, Fall 2005. Columbia: Division of Institutional Effectiveness. Electronic document, http://www.benedict.edu/divisions/inseff/res earch/bc_research_facts.html, accessed June 4, 2007. Bennett, Michael, and Vanessa Dickerson, eds. 2001 Recovering the Black Female Body: Se lf-Representations by African American Women. New Brunswick, NJ: Ru tgers University Press. Berg, Charles 1951 The Unconscious Significance of Hair. London: George Allen and Unwin. Bernard, H. Russell, ed. 1998 Handbook of Methods in Cultural An thropology. London: AltaMira Press. Berry, Bertice 1988 Black-on-Black Discrimination: The Phenomenon of Colorism Among African Americans. Ph.D. dissertation, So ciology, Kent State University. Blackwelder, Julia Kirk 2003 Styling Jim Crow: African American Beauty Training during Segregation. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. Bolick, Clint, and David Legge 2004 Washington, DC Hair Braiding, Vol. 2005. Washington, DC: Institute for Justice. Electronic document, http://www.ij.org/econom ic_liberty/dc_hairbr aiding/index.html, accessed March 16, 2007. Bond, and Cash 1991 Black beauty: Skin Color and Body Images Among African American College Women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 22:874-888. Bonner, Lonnice Brittenum 1994 Good hair: for colored girls who've considered weaves when the chemicals became too ruff. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks. Borgatti, S. 1996 ANTHROPAC 4.0 Methods Guide. Natick, MA: Analytic Technologies.

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266 Williams, Calaudette M. 2000 Charcoal and Cinnamon: The politics of color in Spanish Caribbean Literature. Gainesville: University of Florida Press. Willis, Deborah, and Carla Williams 2002 The Black Female Body: A Photogra phic History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Winant, Howard 1994 Racial Conditions: Politics, Theory, Comparisons. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Wolcott, H. 1988 Ethnographic Research in Education. In Complementary Methods for Research in Education. R.M. Jaeger, ed. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association. Wood, William 1989 The Visualization of Cultural Proc ess. Society for Visual Anthropology Newsletter 5(1):29-33. Woodson, Carter G. 1933 The Miseducation of the Negro. Washi ngton, DC: The Associated publishers, inc. Zack, Naomi, ed. 1995 American Mixed Race: The Culture of Microdiversity. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Zollar, Jawole Willa Jo, and Elizabeth Herron 2001 Hairstories: Urban Bush Women.

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267 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Born March 16, 1968, Sybil Dione Rosado is a nativ e of Tampa, Florida. She is the only daughter of Mr. Don L. Johnson and Dr. Sybil K. Barnes and grand daughter of Mrs. Sybil H. Barnes, Mr. Wesley Barnes, Mrs. Annie Mae Johnson, and Mr. Willie Johnson. She has one brother who is also named Don L. Johnson. Sybil participates in a blended family with her husband Mr. Craig A. Rosado and they share seven children. Sybil earned a B.S. in Political Scien ce from Florida A & M University in 1989, a Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1992, a certificate in law enforcement from Hillsborough Community College police academy in 1993, a M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Fl orida in 1999 and a certificat e in womens studies in 2007. Her research interests include medical tour ism, native epistemology, gender inequality, ethnic identity, the symbolic nature of beaut y, and body modification. She positions herself as a visual anthropologist who studies the people of the African Diaspora.


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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0019747/00001

Material Information

Title: Nappy Hair in the Diaspora: Exploring the Cultural Politics of Hair among Women of African Descent
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0019747:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0019747/00001

Material Information

Title: Nappy Hair in the Diaspora: Exploring the Cultural Politics of Hair among Women of African Descent
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0019747:00001


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NAPPY HAIR IN THE DIASPORA: EXPLORING THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF
HAIR AMONG WOMEN OF AFRICAN DESCENT





















By

SYBIL DIONE ROSADO


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007































2007 Sybil Dione Rosado


































For my grandmothers and their great-great-great granddaughters.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For me the process of obtaining a Ph.D. has been a long and difficult journey that could not

have been completed without the guidance and support of my committee and in particular my

committee chair. When I first began graduate school, I heard stories about the value of locating

a good advisor. My ideal hope had been to find someone who would be willing to assist me in

selecting a dissertation topic, read my drafts, and help edit my dissertation attempts. I never

dreamed that I would find a professor who would be willing to go beyond these academically

prescribed basics and offer me tips on professional development, help me get my first papers

published, and swaddle me in moral and personal support. I found all of this in Dr. Irma

McClaurin. She has been my professor, my professional development advisor, my departmental

political analyst, my theoretical parent, and ultimately my spiritual and temporal guide through

the mire called academia. Second, I would like to thank Dr. marilyn m. thomas-houston for her

courage and dedication to my work. Third, I would like to thank Dr. Joe Feagin, for providing

deep insight into the world of departmental politics, White racism, and their impact on my self

esteem. Fourth, I am grateful to Dr. Faye Harrison for her thought-provoking discussions that

always manage to push my thinking just a little bit further. Fifth, I thank Dr. Kenneth Sassaman

for encouraging me to, "explore the relationship between the structural components of culture

and lived experiences." Finally, I thank Dr. Stephanie Evans, for believing in me even before

she knew my name. Overall, I would like to thank you all for serving on my committee and

being stellar mentors and academic leaders.

Many thanks go to other professors who supported my efforts during graduate school and

the dissertation process: Drs. Boyce Davies, Cheryl Rodriguez, John Moore, Allan Burns, Steve

Borgatti, Jeff Johnson, Susan Weller, and H. Russell Bernard. I am also grateful to the









colleagues I have encountered at Benedict College such as Drs. Gloria Boutte, Stephen Criswell,

Larry Watson, and especially Jacqueline Brice-Finch.

I am grateful to all of the members of the McKnight Doctoral Family for the years of love

and support the program participants and administrators have provided me. I am especially

indebted to Dr. Jonathan Gayles. Dr Gayles thank you for believing in me and pushing me to

continue to pursue my McKnight dream. I also want to thank Dr. Morehouse and Charles

Jackson for helping me keep my dream alive. I am forever grateful to the late Dr. Israel Tribble,

former President of the Florida Education Fund and Dr. Bettye Parker Smith, former Vice

President and Senior Program Officer for The Florida Education Fund and the McKnight

Doctoral program they administered. I would never have been able to enroll in or complete a

doctorate without the generous financial and emotional support provided by these individuals

through this program. I will always be proud that I was allowed to become a member of the

McKnight Doctoral Family.

I would like to thank Benedict College, and all Historically Black Colleges and

Universities. I am a product of one and now a faculty member at what I consider to be some of

the greatest institutions in America. I acknowledge my origins and believe that historically Black

colleges and universities (HBCU's) are the foundation of Black academicians in America.

I will always be grateful to the Faculty Resource Network program at New York

University. This program gave me the opportunity to spend a summer as a scholar in residence

where I was able to finalize my dissertation topic. Ultimately, the experience at NYU helped get

me back on track when I had almost given up on the possibility of earning a Ph.D.









I thank the Mellon/UNCF fellowship program for the financial support that allowed me to

complete my research. You cannot imagine how much time I was saved by having the support

for a year's leave-of-absence from my full-time teaching position.

So many friends helped me along the way that it would be impossible for me to list them

all. I thank Dawn-Elisse Banks for helping me get through the Master's degree; your constant

reminders about writing with clarity and logic remain important lessons. Dr. Terry Weik and

Natalie Washington-Weik, thank you for being good Afrocentric role models; and Angela

Blalock, you helped me keep my sanity in South Carolina. Ermitte St. Jacques, Flemming

Daugaard-Hansen, Tracey Graham, Maxine Downs, and Deborah Rodman, thank you all for

teaching me what it means to have academic colleagues. Often times, your talks and

encouragement were just the cure I needed to keep me going. Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, thank you for

everything and I mean "everything." You have been a pillar of strength in my life and without

you more than just the dissertation would remain incomplete. To Keisha Duncan, Robert Adams,

John Warford, and Clarissa and Danny Wright, thank you for your friendship. Dr. Lori Wilson

thank you for being the nicest woman I have ever met. Without your constant encouragement, I

would never have believed that this could be done. Sili Recio, thank you for always being there

for me, even when I was not able to return the favor. Your daily email messages, your poetry,

and your short stories have sustained me. Bridgette Bundrage, thank you for being my first best

friend.

I wish to sincerely thank all of the women who shared their lives, pains, joys, and stories

about hair with me via interviews, beauty shop talks, and the internet survey. This dissertation is

really about their stories and I am grateful that they trusted me to be their modern-day griot.









I have been blessed to have the continual support of my family. Despite the fact that most

of you did not understand the dissertation process, you remained confident in your belief that I

could finish: Dr. Sydell LeGrande, Sandra Johnson, Kathy Davidson, Bonnie Brown and Vivian

Oliver. I would like to extend a special thanks to my father Don Johnson who made it possible

for me to call myself a visual anthropologist. He found me the financial support for state-of-the-

art cameras and video editing equipment. I thank my brother Don for years of friendship and

intellectually stimulating conversation.

All my love and gratitude goes to my husband Craig Rosado and my son Nicholas Rosado

for understanding when I required isolation and pampering. I am particularly grateful to my

husband for taking charge of our household and aspects of our personal life so that I could

concentrate all of my energy on research and writing. I thank my grandmother Sybil Barnes for

being a Black female educational and entrepreneurial pioneer. All of my grandmothers'

sacrifices have borne fruit in her children and the lives she touched with her cultural enrichment

programs. My grandmother taught me that, "anything the mind can perceive and truly believe

you can achieve."

Last, but certainly not least, I thank my mother Dr. Sybil K. Barnes, for teaching me that

the only work worth doing is something that you love and giving me the courage to pursue my

dreams. Despite the fact that most people perceive my mother to be a sweet, quiet, passive

person, I have learned to be brave, adventuresome, and even heroic from her examples. I have

followed her all over the world and I know that I never would have considered teaching

anthropology as a career choice without her leadership and support.

Ultimately, I must also thank God for the multitude of times Her love has protected me-

even from myself.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ........... ............. .....

LIST O F FIG U R E S .................................... .. .... .............. .................. ............... 11

ABSTRAC T ............................... ..................... 15

CHAPTER

1 REPOSSESSING THE BLACK FEMALE BODY: IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION
AND APPEARANCE IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA.....................................................17

In tro du ctio n ................... ...................1...................7..........
P u rp o se o f S tu d y ........................................................................................................ 17
T h e P rob lem ................................................................19
R e search Q u e stio n s........................................................................................................... 2 2
Justification of Study ................................................................... 23
Significance of Study ..................................................................... ........ 27
Historicizing Blackness .......................... ..................27
L in k in g C olor to R ace ............................................................................................... 2 7
Black Female Bodies .............. ........................... 29
Performing Identity in the Diaspora ....... .......................... .. ......31
A agency, P perception, and H air.................................................................................... 32
Functional Definitions of Key Hairstyle Terms .............. ............................. 34
B asic H air B biology ................................................................34
B lack H airsty les ................................................................................ 36
Sum m ary and C onclu sion s ............................................................................................... 40

2 THEORIZING THE BODY AND HAIR: A HISTORICAL LITERATURE REVIEW.......57

Socioeconomic and Cultural Construction of the Body ................................ ................ 58
Psychoanalytical and Anthropological Literature on Hair Symbolism ...............................61
Hair among African-Descended Women in the American South .......................................67
Black Hair Historiography .............................................................. ................................... 70
L literature R review on B lack H air ............................................................ .. ........... .. 75

3 METHODOLOGY AND METHODS ............................................................................85

M methodology ........... ...................... ........... ............. .... ............... 85
Methods ..................... .............. ... .......... ................. 92
Research Settings ........................... .... .. ....................... .. ............... 93
Researcher as the Instrument and Initial Setting ................................................ .... 93
Second Setting: The Beauty Shop ............................................................................95
Third Setting: The V virtual W world ........................................................................ ...... 95
Sam ple Selections and D descriptions ........................................................................ 97


8









D ata C collection T echniques......................................................................... ...................103
P participant O b serve action ........................................................................ ...................103
Focus Groups.............................................. 105
Dialogic Interview s ................................... .. ........ .............. 106
H air Stories as D ata ............................................................. ...... ............. .. ..... 10 6
O line Survey ........... .... ......... ................................................................................. 109
H air E xperim ent .............. ............................................................................113
C onclu sions.......... .........................................................114

4 HAIR STORIES AND INTERVIEW DATA ............. .............. ...............120

Exploring the Shared Meanings of Hair: Rituals, Symbols, and Beliefs..............................121
H air R itu als ..................................................................................................................... 12 2
Ritualized Pain Makes You Beautiful! ............. ................... ............. 122
H air R ituals=H happiness ..................................................................................... .. ... ......125
H air Sym bols ...................... ........ ............................ ............. 126
H air as a Signifier of Racial D difference ................................................................ 126
G ood-n-B ad H air ................................................................................ 129
Sym bolic Socialization and Social Capital ................................................................... 133
Why Hair Really Matters......................................... 135
Hair=Sexual Attractiveness and Orientation ................................................................136
Hair=Level of Professionalism.................... ......... .......... 138
Hair=Social Class ................................. ................................ ........ 140
H air B beliefs .................................................................................................14 3
H air B eliefs, Identity and Folklore ...................................................................... ..... 143
C o n clu sio n ................... ...................1...................4.........5

5 SURVEY, EXPERIMENTAL AND PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION DATA ................160

D e m o g ra p h ic s ................................................................................................................. 1 6 0
A g e b y G e o g rap h y ................................................................................................... 16 1
A ge by Incom e ...............................................................16 1
Incom e by H air C are Expenditures ......................................................................... 161
Survey D ata ...... ................................ ........... .. .................. 163
H air P ain=B eauty ......................................................... ......163
H air R itual H happiness ................ ............................................................... 165
HairRace.......................................... ..... 166
G o o d -n -B ad H air ............................................................................................16 6
Hair= Sex .................. ............................. .. ..... .... ................. 166
H air P professionalism ...................................................................................... 167
H air Id en tity ..................................................................................................... 16 8
H air E xperim ent D ata .................................................. .................... .. ....................... 169
Photo Number One: Short Relaxed with Tint ........................................ ...............170
Photo Number Two: Medium Relaxed Bob.......................................................171
Photo Number Three: Short Relaxer with Burgundy Streaks ......................................171
Photo Number Four: Medium Length Curly Natural ..................................................172
Photo Number Five: Blonde Shoulder Length Asymmetrical Cut................................ 172


9









Photo Number Six: Burgundy Braid Extensions....................................................173
Photo N um ber Seven D readlocks...................................................................... ...... 173
Photo N um ber Eight L ong Perm ....................................................................... ...... 173
Photo N um ber N ine Curly H air.......................................................... ............... 174
Photo Number Ten Burgundy Layered Perm ............................................................. 174
Photo Number Eleven Platinum Blonde Perm .............................................................174
Photo Number Twelve Long Curly Perm ................................................................... 175
M ost Ethnic A appearance ....................................................................................... 175
Most Professional/Conservative/Attractive Appearance..............................................176
M ost G hetto A appearance ............................................. .. ........................ ..................176
M ost L likely R eal H air ... ......... .. ... .... ....................................... ............ 177
Participant Observation on the Political Economy of Black Hair ............. .... ...........177
Human Hair Trade ...................... .......... .. ................... 178
Black B raiders Fight........ ................................ ........ .......... ........ .. 185
C o n c lu sio n ......... ............ ................ ...............................................................19 0

6 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ........................................ .......................... 228

Introduction ...... ....... .. ........ ... ....... ..... .......... ...... ...............228
Conceptual Framework for Cultural Domain of Black Hair ........................................229
Conceptual Framework for Black Hair Texturocracy ...............................................231
Comparing and Contrasting the Survey Results: Contradictions and Continuity .........231
Conclusion: I Am Not M y Hair ...................................................................... 234

APPENDIX

A VIEW OUR HAIR STORY ASSIGNMENT .................................................241

B EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WITH STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
C O SM E TO L O G Y B O A R D ........................................................................ ...................243

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ..................................................................................... ..................244

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ............................................................................. ....................267


















10









LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

1-1 N akia B row n. ...................................................................43

1-2 La Belle Hottentot circa 1814. Permission Granted by Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.....44

1-3 Fat black w welfare queens cartoon........... ............ ..................................... ............... 45

1-4 Cross section of hair follicle. .................................................. ........................................... 46

1-5 Cross section of hair and scalp................................................. .............................. 47

1-6 Hot Combs. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...............................................48

1-7 Completed relaxer style. Photograph courtesy of Don Johnson and Sybil Dione
R osado.......... ... ........................ .................................... .......... ..... 49

1-8 Hair being braided with synthetic hair. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.....50

1-9 Cornrow hairstyle being crafted with synthetic hair. Photograph courtesy of Sybil
D ion e R o sado ...................................... ............................. ..... ........ ...... 5 1

1-10 Weave hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado......................................52

1-11 Twists hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.......................................53

1-12 Jheri curl photo. Sybil Dione Rosado at age 12 photograph courtesy of Don L.
Johnson ........................................................ ...................................54

1-13 Short natural hairstyle photo. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Sybil Johnson........................ 55

1-14 Long dreadlocks hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado .......................56

3-1 R research D design Flow C hart. ............................................................................ .... ... 116

3-2 Researcher Sybil Dione Rosado and her mother Dr. Sybil Johnson of real hair
Photograph courtesy of Dr. Irma McClaurin. ............................................................117

3-3 Researcher Sybil Dione Rosado giving buenapresencia (good appearance) with wig
covering dreadlocks photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado..............................118

3-4 Business card created to recruit research participants. ................. ...............119

4-1 Washing that GoodHair-Craig and Nicole Rosado. Photograph courtesy of Sybil
D ion e R o sado ............................................................................................. .14 7









4-2 Nashini Khan with good hair. Photo courtesy of Ryan Santoo and Sybil Dione
R osado.............. ....................... ................................... .................. 148

4-3 Aunt Betty Beaver with Professional hair circa 1960. Photograph courtesy of Sybil
D io n e R o sa d o ...................................... ................................................. 14 9

4-4 Grandmother Sybil Barnes with professional hair circa 1970. Photograph courtesy of
Sybil Dione Rosado. ................................... ... .. .......... ....... .... 150

4-5 Radical Lesbian hair Sybil Dione Rosado1992. Photograph courtesy of Don L.
Johnson .........................................................................................15 1

4-6 Sybil Dione Rosado with "professional" hair circa 1994. Photograph courtesy of
Sybil Dione Rosado. ................................... ... .. .......... ....... .... 152

4-7 Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photo courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado..... 153

4-8 Bronner Brothers Hair Show Red Quick Weave Feb 20, 2004 Courtesy of Sybil
D io n e R o sa d o ...................................... ................................................. 1 5 4

4-9 Bingo Hair Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photograph courtesy of Sybil
D io n e R o sa d o ...................................... ................................................. 1 5 5

4-10 Hat weave Bronner Brothers Hair Show Feb 20, 2004. Photograph courtesy of Sybil
D io n e R o sa d o ...................................... ................................................. 1 5 6

4-11 Brandi Dunlap. Photograph coutesy of Sybil Dione Rosado................. .....................157

4-12 Kourtney Humbert. Photograph courtesy of Samantha Crommer and Sybil Dione
R osado.............. ..................... ............................................. ...... 158

4-13 Daphnie Turner. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.....................................159

5-1 Age by Geography. ..................................... .. .......... ....... ...... 192

5-2 A ge by Incom e chart ......................................................................................... ......193

5-3 R espondent's H airstyles................................................................................. ......... 194

5-4 R espondent by H airstyle Type ........................................................................... ... .... 195

5-5 H air= P ain C hart. ................................................................................................. .. 196

5-6 Ashley McCants. Photograph courtesy of Amber Smith and Sybil Dione Rosado.........197

5-7 Girls in beauty shop in Ghana, West Africa. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione
R osado.............. ..................... ............................................. ...... 198









5-8 Level of Agreement for definition of Good Hair. Agreement with definition of Good
hair: Hair that is easy to comb because it is straight, silky and does not have tight
curls.............................. ......... .................. .................. ................. 199

5-9 Level of Agreement for definition of Nappy hair. Agreement with definition of
Nappy hair: Hair that is difficult to comb because it is very curly and cotton like.........200

5-10 Proxim ity graph for attractiveness of hairstyles. ............................................................201

5-11 Proximity graph for social acceptability of hairstyles. ....................................................202

5-12 Proximity graph for question, "What is a Professional Hairstyle?" .............................203

5-13 Hair=Identity ...................................... ................. ................ ........... 204

5-14 L east E ethnic H airstyles .......................................................................... ....................205

5-15 Zena Solomon. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado...................................... 206

5-16 Julia Williams. Photograph courtesy of Marquise Jackson and Sybil Dione Rosado. ....207

5-17 Photo 1 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 208

5-18 Photo 2 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 209

5-19 Photo 3 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 210

5-20 Photo 4 from online experiment ........................ ........................ 211

5-21 Photo 5 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 212

5-22 Photo 6 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 213

5-23 Photo 7 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 214

5-24 Photo 8 from online experiment.

5-25 Photo 9 from online experim ent. ............................................ ............................. 216

5-26 Photo 10 from online experim ent. ............................................ ........................... 217

5-27 Photo 11 from online experim ent. ........................................................ .....................218

5-28 Photo 12 from online experim ent. ............................................ ........................... 219

5-29 Experim ent R espondent A ge. ........................................ ............................................220

5-30 Sign adorning Kalyana Katta, the four story building where hair tonsuring is
conducted. ................................................................................22 1









5-31 Sign directing devotees to tonsure line inside temple grounds outside Kalyana Katta. ..222

5-32 Tonsuring outside of the tem ple. ..................................... .................................... 222

5-33 Hair being swept together for donation. ........................................ ....... ............... 223

5-34 Post-tonsure photo of a sm all child .............. ............. ......................... ............... 223

5-35 Hat vendors outside of Kalyana Katta ................................ ...............224

5-36 M ain headquarters of Raj Impex ...................................................................... 224

5-37 Women sorting hair in Raj Impex factory. ........................................... ............... 225

5-38 Different textures of hair at Raj Impex, with long remy hair in the middle. ...................225

5-39 Hair being raked and tided off for sale at Raj Impex India. .........................................226

5-40 Human hair ready for packaging and export at Raj Impex...........................................226

5-41 Synthetic hair for sale in Accra market in Ghana, West Africa...................................227

6-1 The many faces of Sili Recio collage. Photographs courtesy of Sili Recio.................238

6-2 Conceptual Framework for Black hair domain..................... ................... 239

6-3 Conceptual framework for Black hair texturocracy.................................. ....................240









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

NAPPY HAIR IN THE DIASPORA: EXPLORING THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF HAIR
AMONG WOMEN OF AFRICAN DESECENT

By

Sybil Dione Rosado

May 2007

Chair: Irma McClaurin
Co chair: marilyn m. thomas-houston
Major: Anthropology

The purpose of this study is to investigate whether hair texture and hairstyle choice have

symbolic meanings among women of African descent. Hair is a personal yet public

pronouncement about identity. This work is an effort to understand how group identity is formed

and maintained through everyday experiences in the African Diaspora.

This dissertation addresses two key questions:

Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent associate with
their hair texture and hairstyle choice?

If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among
women of African descent?

To answer these questions, data collection involved participant observation, interviews,

pile sorts, free lists, electronic surveys, digital storytelling techniques, ethnographic film and

photography, and an online experiment. These data-collection methods provided for a deeper

understanding of the underlying symbolic and not simply the "stated" meaning attributed to

different hair textures and styles by African-descended women.

Asking how hair textures and styles serve to help African-descended women carve out

unique racial, gendered, social, and economic identities is critical to our understanding of what it









means to be a woman of African descent. Thus, any attempts at understanding the lived

experiences of Black women will ultimately help us in defining the parameters of the African

Diaspora.

The data from this research reveal that hair is a cultural domain for women of African

descent. Additionally, within this cultural domain hair texture is utilized as a way to assess an

individual's racial status. So hair texture is used to race or de-race individuals symbolically. I

found that hairstyles also transmit tacit messages about sexual orientation, gender, social status,

religion and politics. Women of African descent use hair to symbolize their social, cultural,

political, and ethnic identities. For this group of women the material culture of hair serves as a

way to extend their personal lives into the public.









CHAPTER 1
REPOSSESSING THE BLACK FEMALE BODY: IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION AND
APPEARANCE IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA

Everything I know about American history I learned from looking at Black people's hair.
It's the perfect metaphor for the African experiment: the price of the ticket, the toll of
slavery and the costs of remaining. It's all in the hair.

-Lisa Jones, author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.

Introduction

The introduction to this dissertation outlines the purpose of the study; describes the

research problem, offers a rationale for the research, and defines the research objectives. Two

specific research questions are presented for investigation. The introduction also discusses the

significance of the study, and defines its key concepts. The final section of the introduction

provides an overview of the dissertation chapters and summarizes this introduction.

Purpose of Study

The main purpose of this study is to explore and document the symbolic meaning

associated with hair textures and styles among women of African descent in the United States.

Evidence of these symbolic meanings is disbursed throughout the dissertation in the form of

excerpts from digital hair stories completed by some of my research participants (see Figure 1-1

Nakia Baker and the description of how the photo displays meaning written by Ryan Santoo).

These photographs and the explanatory essays that sometimes accompany them provide the

reader with a snapshot of the beliefs held by my research participants. This work investigates

whether or not a shared cultural domain exists about hair among women of African descent in

America. Cultural domains are systems of belief shared by groups and they can be identified

through the elicitation of lists of key terms, core ideas, actions, or other components (Bernard

1998; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003; Weller and Romney 1988; Weller 1998). The main idea

behind cultural domains is that culture groups have shared beliefs or perceptions that are not









based on individual preferences. Implicit in this theory is not notion that group beliefs can be

ascertained because a universal right answer exists for these beliefs (Bernard 1998; Borgatti

1996; Furlow 2003; Weller and Romney 1988; Weller 1998). My work focuses on the body and

more specifically hair as an identity marker and a possible cultural domain.

This work is also concerned with understanding how culture groups are formed via

individual and group identity, the criteria and boundaries utilized in their formation and how we

can know this. The specific culture group I am focusing on is women of African descent in

America. Despite the fact that a minor number of my participants were located outside of this

geographical space, I allowed them to participate based on their perception of themselves as

valid members of the group I called, women of African descent. For me questions about culture

groups and identity are some of the most important questions ethnographers can ask in the early

21st century (Handwerker 2001). In my research I am attempting to document the personalized

channels within global markets that African-descended women utilize to redefine or

symbolically reinvent their lives through the cultural domain of hair. Like Ronald Walters (1993)

who used both the real and imagined linkages between Africa and its Diaspora as his units of

analysis, I use hair as my unit of analysis while investigating local and global identity formation.

The Black body remains a central issue in the debate about Black identity because the body

is still related to how we define group membership and boundaries (Zack 1995). I intend to

focus on how this gendered identity is performed and witnessed by women of African descent in

America. Understanding how identity is performed among African-descended women in

America may assist scholars in expanding the notion of a shared community in the African

Diaspora. Ultimately, I believe that the key to understanding identity construction in the African









Diaspora is grounded in creating and accepting inclusive definitions and honoring divergent

experiences.

The Problem

While numerous books and research projects have investigated the importance of skin

color among people of African descent, most researchers have not been interested in

investigating the profound meaning attributed to hairstyles and texture. This material culture

called hair is perceived as a signifier of a Black woman's sexuality, racial pride, professional

status, social standing, and genetic origin. Despite its enormous importance the meaning of

hairstyles and textures in the African American community remains an under-researched area.

Skin color has been the primary research focus because historically, in the African

American community, there exists a major divide over the issues of skin color and hair texture

that has created a continuing legacy of separatism, divisiveness, and sheer disdain (Russell, et al.

1998). This division often starts in childhood, as documented by Sonja Lanehart in her book,

Sister Speak (2002). Lanehart's narrative of one African American woman's experiences reveals

negative encounters with skin color and hair texture biases as early as the sixth grade. The

woman recounts her memories of being recognized as the dark skinned girl who was only picked

to be a majorette because she had long hair. She believed she was denied the position of head

majorette because of her dark skin. This intra-racial skin color prejudice, also known as

"colorism" or pigmentocracy,1 has functioned to divide the African American community




1 As Robin notes, the connections between power, privilege, and ethnic identification are so pervasive that in 1980,
French social anthropologist Danielle Demelas, coined the term pigmentocracy to describe this intricate web of
racially coded social relations (1999:13). This legacy began with the racist ideology developed during slavery which
consisted of a binary system between "whiteness and its alleged opposite blackness, and deemed the black slaves
inferior to their white masters in culture and intelligence, in physical appearance and skin color" (Williams
2000:17). In the Caribbean pigmentocracy, "brown-skinned mulattoes (a closer approximation of the unchallenged
white aesthetic idea) occupied a position above black-skinned Negroes, but below whites. The mulatto woman was
perceived as, and perceived herself to be, more beautiful than the black woman, and she was more beautiful than the









throughout its institutions, including sororities, churches and colleges and universities (Lake

2003). Some elitist African American social organizations even devised entrance exams to their

groups that were known as "paper bag" and "comb" test (Lake 2003; Russell, et al. 1998). These

tests were designed to measure skin color for lightness and hair texture for straightness. Research

reveals that experiences like these permeate the consciousness of women of African descent

(Neal and Wilson 1989). Despite the fact that skin color may be used metonymically to speak to

issues concerning overall phenotype, typically researchers have not singled out hair from these

physical characteristics as a point of interest.

Unfortunately, similar attitudes stretch beyond the Americas into Asia, India, and the

South Pacific (Gailey 1994). Roksana Badruddoja Rahman of Rutgers has shown in her research

that South Asians aggressively seek marriage partners with lighter skinned women (Rahman

2004). Furthermore, a large portion of the Asian cosmetics industry is dedicated to skin

lighteners that promise to make users "fair and lovely" (Assisi 2004; Olivelle 1998; Rahman

2004). The clear implication of these advertisements is that you cannot be both dark and lovely.

Similar prejudices are evident in Brazil where dark skin is associated with criminality and

an increased potential for becoming the victim of violence (Mitchell and Wood 1999).

Furthermore, even though Latin Americans typically assert the absence of color based racism in

their culture, they adhere to a status quo where Whiteness is at the pinnacle of beauty and

Blackness occupies the base (Sanchez, et al. 1996; Twine-Winddance 1998). Understanding that

"it is generally accepted that "races" are social constructions, categorical identifications based on

a discourse about physical appearance or ancestry"(Wade 1993: 3), and that "race operates

differently in different contexts" (Clarke and Thomas 2006: 2), I consciously attempt to


black woman, and she was more acceptable to the dominant white ruling class" (Williams 2000:17). Colorism is
also a term used by sociologist Bertice Berry to describe Black-on-Black discrimination (1988).









operationalze the notion of Blackness. Following Whitten and Torres in my research I begin to

define the terms Whiteness and Blackness as follows:

The term black, according to Webster, is an adjective derived from Latin constructs
meaning, in a literal sense, "sooted, smoke black from flame." Its first meaning in the
twentieth century is "opposite to white." .The concept of blackness, reflects again
and again on the ironies of its origins .. .the dialectic between the darkening influences of
white domination in the African diaspora and the enlightened cultural, social and economic
creativity produces and reproduced in the eternal fires of black rebellion (Whitten and
Torres 1998: 3).

When I invoke the term Blackness, I evoke notions of "racialized geographies of the

imagination" and instead of capitulating to the illusion of Blackness being linked to a physical

location I refer to locations where the notion of Blackness has been constructed and reformulated

in social spaces on a global level (Brown 2006: 73). In these geographies of the imagination

racial formation is heterogeneous and processual "bounded by local experiences rooted

within historical and contemporary political economies" (Clarke and Thomas 2006: 27).

Blackness and conversely, Whiteness are poly-sysetemic categories that I argue should refer to

the complex system of racial classification through which structures of domination are created,

reproduced, and experienced. The concept of Blackness denotes an association with Black

culture, an African political, cultural, and personal identity that is rooted in colonial and

postcolonial experiences that position Whiteness as the pinnacle with Blackness at the base

(Hord, 1995)

This pyramid system of racial hierarchy results in the marginalization of darker colored

skin on a global level (Allahar 1993). For example, in Latin America negative references to

Black physiognomy are so prevalent that it is often thought of as a joke (Sanchez, et al. 1996).

Similarly, in Nicaragua the solapado manner (racist behavior) is so commonplace that African-

descended people rationalize taunts about their hair texture, perceived sexual prowess, and

physical abilities as forms of merriment (Sanchez, et al. 1996).









Often employers demand a buenapresencia (good appearance) for workers to gain

employment and although this phrase translates literally into a good appearance, it actually

means White skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. A response to this overt racism is evidenced by an

anti-racism campaign in Panama that prompted a book entitled "No Me Pidas Una Foto" which

translates, "Don't ask me for a photo" (Barrow 2006). These negative encounters and economic

consequences reinforce the desire of some African-descended people to alter the physical

appearance of their children by marrying Whites (Assisi 2004; Hertel and Hughes 1990; Udry

1971), changing their own skin complexion with skin lighteners, bleaching peels and other

cosmetics (Adebajo 2002; Giudice and Yves 2002; Goering 1971; Neal and Wilson 1989), and

more immediately through cosmetic surgery (Gilman 2001). These global realities inluenced my

decision to allow participants who would not traditionally be defined as women of African

descent, such as Melanesians and Africans in America, to participate in the research.

I submit that alongside this well documented system of pigmentocracy there also exists a

"texturocracy" or social hierarchical system largely based on hair texture and hairstyle embraced

by every ethnic or racial, gendered, and socioeconomic group ever exposed to any form of

colonialism. In this texturocracy, hair described as fine and straight is perceived as more valuable

than hair that is described as coarse and curly. Therefore, despite the fact that skin color remains

an extremely important issue among African-descended people, hair is the starting point for my

scholarly research.

Research Questions

The research for this dissertation has been guided by two anthropological questions:

* Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent associate with their hair
texture and hairstyle choice?

* If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among women of
African descent?









I have chosen to answer these questions by conducting four levels of inquiry. First, I

describe and analyze symbolic acts regarding Black hair gleaned from women of African descent

in America. Second, I investigate and evaluate the importance of the symbolic acts. Third, I

elicit the meanings informants attribute to these acts and fourth, I create a conceptual framework

that relates how these acts function among women of African descent (Firth 1973a).

Specifically, I investigate eight Black hairstyles, identified by my research participants as salient

to women of African descent in America. The styles that serve as the entry point for my analysis

are called relaxers or perms, braids, dreadlocks, twists, jheri curls, weaves, micro braids, and

afros or naturals.

Justification of Study

Understanding the contested space the Black body occupies is critical for any serious

analysis of identity construction in the African Diaspora. Jemima Pierre echoes my concern

when she states, "we must devote more careful attention to the structures, processes, contexts,

and outcomes of identity formation in the African Diaspora" (Pierre 2002). In order to

deconstruct general concepts of identity, researchers must be willing to analyze the symbols that

craft the current perceptions of "racial" identities. I find the work of feminist anthropologists

and philosophers relevant to this effort. Specifically, I rely on Judith Butler's (1993; 1990)

description of performativity as a way to understand the processural nature of identity formation

where seemingly unrelated ideas can be brought together to form an open ended fluid system of

meaning. Furthermore, Natasha Pravaz says,

These ideas are central to understanding the materialization of "sex" or "race" in the body
as a regulatory practice whose efficacy is not grounded in biological truth but in the
repetition of social rules based on the impulse to approximate and embody normative
ideals (Pravaz 2003:122).









In this age of globalization where the world has become an interrelated nexus of

transnational global fields, concepts of identity are in constant flux and may change with the

sociocultural landscape (Harrison 1998:609). This concern with the ever changing nature of

identity is the same issue Dubois characterized as "the problem of the 20th century" (1903:16).

What is this "color line" and how does it manifest itself in the experiences of African American

women as they formulate their personal and national identities. Like critical race theorist Derrick

Bell (1992) I believe that the vestiges of race and racism cannot be cast off by simply ignoring

the concepts imbedded in these ideas. Race is still linked to identity and it remains a way of

"knowing and organizing the social world" (Winant 1994:xiii). But, even though we continue to

use race as a marker there is no shared theoretical, methodological, or political consensus about

how to interpret and explain the social realties that constitute race (Harrison 1999:610). So my

work attempts to explain one of the social realities that help construct racial identity for women

of African descent. I believe that analyzing women's beliefs and experiences with hair will

enable us to better understand the importance of the phenomenon as it relates to the production

of identity among African-descended women. This is important because, "anthropology, as I see

it, asks that we understand the dynamics of identity and of social relations in contextually

appropriate ways" (Pravaz 2003:136). Understanding the evolution of identity construction

among African-descended women will be limited if researchers fail to categorize the structures,

processes, contexts, and outcomes that become the "performances" of identity in the African

Diaspora. Researching and documenting these structures may help to demonstrate their

usefulness in the formation of a specific cultural domain about hair.

Although I do not agree with most of his sociopolitical perspectives in his book,

Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority (2003), John McWhorter asks some









crucial questions about this notion of identity construction and Blackness. For example, "Who is

authentically Black and who is empowered to determine this reality?" These questions are

echoed by Debora Dickerson (2004), in her book The End ofBlackness. Looking at these works

prompted me to ask a multitude of questions about the construction of Black identity. For

example, following the concept of Blackness popularized by hip hop culture prompts me to ask,

Does speaking Black English, having multiple "babies' daddies," or bad credit make me Black?

Do I need to dodge bullets in South-Central L.A. or participate in Jack and Jill and the Golden

Sable debutante Ball in order to be authentically Black? How does one, "keep it real" as the

rappers implore us to do? What are authentic Black politics? How exactly do I earn and

maintain my Blackness, and more importantly, who decides when I am "there"? The same

sentiment is echoed in Martin Favor's book, Authentic Blackness (1999), when he asks whether

or not race, class or culture, should control how intellectual work is categorized. Favor discusses

out how the concept of Blackness is problematic because if we attempt to base it on a shared

history then Blacks from alternate historical viewpoints are excluded and if we tried to link it to

genetics then we are giving credence to the notions of difference. These same questions are

applicable when we attempt to conceptualize identity in the African Diaspora. However, the

resolution of these questions is less important than what has been called, in the Foucauldian

sense of the term, the "discourse" of Diasporan identity (Favor 1999). This discourse is

important because historically we have been unwilling to challenge popular notions of

Blackness. However I assert that Diasporan scholars must unabashedly engage in this discourse

if we are to forge any sense of community that extends across politics, geography, class, and

gender.









Grappling with questions about identity in the African Diaspora, I realized that gender

influences this construction and that the Black female body is a valid and necessary site for

discourse analysis about what has been called a Diasporan identity (Favor 1999). Following

Gilroy who states that, "gender is the modality in which race is lived," I turned my attention to

studying the "ritualized social forms" produced by women of African descent (Gilroy 1991).

This research decision was heightened by my reflexive analysis of what is important to me as a

woman of African descent and I was able to identify hair as a salient issue in the performance of

identity for African-descended women. I began to examine the symbolic meaning African-

descended women attribute to hair and hairstyle choice.

In spite of my desire to avoid reifying the stereotypes racist ideology has historically relied

upon by calling upon an element of racial classification as a unifying factor, I cannot disregard

the historical and social significance of the idea of "race." This social concept in the United

States with similar permutations globally is often based on perceived phenotype, and historically

and up to the present is significant in the construction of group boundaries. I assert that the

biological similarity of hair among African-descended women acts as a unifying factor for this

group across geographical boundaries. For example, because of her light skin and tightly coiled

hair, Katya Azoulay, a Jewish woman of African descent, is constantly bombarded with the

questions like, "What are you?" and challenged by statements like, "You're not Jewish,"

because of her skin color and hair texture (Azoulay 1997). Azoulay's experience is a poignant

example of the fact that racial classification and group boundaries are socially constructed ideas

that remain dominant factors in what are perceived as markers for Blackness.

I focus on women of African descent because hair is so central to the construction of the

Black female's racial or cultural identity, her sexuality, gender roles and dynamics, and her









access to or exclusion from various types of power, including aesthetic, cultural, economic, and

political. But in order to initiate a real discussion about hair in contemporary culture and its role

in identity construction and resistance among African-descended women, I must historicize the

conceptualization of the Black body and ultimately, the Black female body.

Significance of Study

Historicizing Blackness

One of the key elements required to understand the relevance of hair as a performative

identity marker among African-descended women is the history of the powerful imagery and

beliefs related to Blackness and the female body. The historical development of the concept of

Blackness in the Americas is relevant to the Diaspora because the spread of ideas about the

significance of skin color have not been constrained by geography. White racism and the

negative stereotypes it created to subordinate Black bodies may be a historically recent invention

but notions of color based inferiority have been adopted by other cultures and societies on a

worldwide basis (Smedley 1998).

Linking Color to Race

The real power behind color prejudice comes from its association with notions of group

membership and "race." Racialization of skin color, physical features, and hair texture served as

a powerful way to distort the image of the Black body. Moreover, it became the unifying force

upon which the concept of Whiteness could be launched. Interestingly, one of the reasons it was

imperative to create a negative image of the Black body was because slaveholders, who in some

contexts were outnumbered by the people they enslaved, needed the allegiance of poor White

non-slaveholders in order to maintain physical control of Blacks. The notion of a shared

"Whiteness" became a way to grant poor people an elevated social status that was based solely

upon their physical appearances (Hartigan 1997). "Whiteness" visibly unified the population and









allowed them to control large numbers of enslaved people (Davila 2003; Hartigan 1997;

Stanfield 2006). The ideology of Whiteness was advanced by constant attempts to outline the

parameters of Blackness (Smedley 1998). One example of this effort can be found in the first

American edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1798). Under the entry "Negro" it reads:

Round cheeks, high cheek-bones, a forehead somewhat elevated, a short, broad, flat nose,
thick lips, small ears, ugliness, and irregularity of shape, characterize their external
appearance. The Negro women have their loins greatly depressed, and very large buttocks,
which give them the shape of a saddle. Vices the most notorious seem to be the portion of
this unhappy race: idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying,
profanity, debauchery, nastiness and intemperance ... strangers to every sentiment of
compassion, and are an awful example of the corruption of man when left to himself (Eze
1997:94).

This "racial" definition shows how the dominant view of the Black body connects the

physicality of Blackness with negative morals and character traits (Conrad 1987). By defining

the Black body as "naturally" ugly, idle, and profane, the White body is implicitly exalted as

"naturally" beautiful, industrious, and sacred. Negative images of the Black body became

ingrained in landscape of the dominant ideology because Whiteness was defined as an

oppositional reality to Blackness (Foutz 1999). A key element in this belief system was that

Europeans, who had "straight hair and noses" were naturally beautiful and therefore both

physically and spiritually superior, while curly hair and broad noses were ugly indications of

barbarism (Foutz 1999). Group identity or race was inscribed on the individual bodies of

enslaved Africans. Skin color, and hair texture became accepted as outward symbols of race and

expressions of an internal pathology (Ferguson 1916). The concept of race globally linked the

Black body to ideas about high levels of sexuality, depravity, laziness, and violence that needed

to be controlled (Baker 1998; Hayes 2002; Roberts 1994).









Black Female Bodies

Interestingly, some of the first exposure the public had to the scientific construction of race

via anthropology was during the 1893 and 1904 World Fair's (Baker 1998). These events

introduced the general public in America to the "scientific evidence" of the inferiority of the

Black body and the superiority of the White body (Baker 1998). Legal, anthropological,

economic, religious, and social forces worked in unison to craft negative images of the Black

racial body (Collins 1990). Focusing on the body as the locus of race helped to cement ideas

about racial inferiority being written into the very text of the Black female body (Gates 1986).

The Black female body became the physical manifestation of all the negative character traits

associated with the race. In this circular reasoning the body became evidence of the traits and the

traits were manifested in the perceived ugliness of the body (Gilliam 1997; Gilliam 2001;

Gilman 2001; McClaurin 2001; Pravaz 2003). Dark skin and kinky hair "themselves" became

representations of primitiveness and immorality. This was in direct opposition to White skin and

blonde hair which became the physical manifestation of civility, chastity, and beauty. Race and

the condition of servitude were symbolically inscribed on the physical body of the Black female

(Drake 1987; Fannon 1967; Memmi 1965; Vizenor 1965).

The image of the Black female body as an example of savage sexuality and racial

inferiority was confirmed by the lurid exhibition of the genitalia of Sarah Baartman, who is

better known as the "hottentot venus" (Maseko 1998; Sharpley-Whiting 1999). Europeans were

able to visually palpate the "otherness" of the Black female body with the exhibition of

Baartman's pronounced buttocks, a physical condition known as steatopygia2, and her rumored



2Classified as an "abnormal" protuberance of buttocks, "steatopygia, a physical condition first anatomized by the
physicians who dissected the Hottentot Venus and other African women, appears in the medical, physiological, and
anthropological literature of the nineteenth century, as well as in depictions in plastic arts and in literary works of
women exoticized by their race, their profession (prostitutes, goddesses, harem inmates), their class laundressess,









pendent labia minora3 (Baker 1974; Sharpley-Whiting 1999). Sarah Baartman's body served as

the foundation of European ideas about Black female sexuality and her exhibition became one of

the initial ethnographic studies of the Black female body (Sharpley-Whiting 1999: see Figure 1-2

La Belle Hottentot).

In the 20th and 21st centuries the development and spread of mass media has helped to

further objectify and "other" the Black female body. Magazines like the National Geographic

made images of nude Black females readily available to the masses and held their bodies out for

public review as valid anthropological specimens (Willis and Williams 2002). The Internet

today provides groups the opportunity to display various types of images regarding the Black

female body. These images range from positive, such as the photos found in the online forum

called www.nappturality.com, to cartoons that are absurdly stereotypical and racist (see Figure 1-

3).

In attempting to re-appropriate our images, Black women face an exploitive paradox where

we are forced to choose between being hyper-visible and sexual or invisible and asexual. It

should be clear now why the construction of the Black female body is a central issue when

attempting to understand the link between the history of racism and identity construction in the

African Diaspora. For people of African descent, the geography of the body serves as a powerful

and visible symbol of racist ideology. Only by dissecting this symbolic landscape can we hope to



cabaret dancers). Its mental parallel, nymphomania, invented by Freud to diagnose the sexually insatiable and thus
monstrous female appetite, depends on an etymological link to the labia minora, the nymphae, presumably
immensely elongated among certain African peoples, for which steatopygia stands as a displacement" (Vlasopolos
2000: 131).

The labia minora, sometimes referred to as the inner lips of the vagina, are folds of skin that extend downward
from the female clitoris that are surrounded by the labia major. "The famous "Hottentot apron" is a hypertrophy, or
overdevelopment, of the labia minora, or nymphae. The apron was one of the most widely discussed riddles of
female sexuality in the nineteenth century. However, its existence, its intriguing origins, and its uses had been
greatly debated in various travelogues of the eighteenth century" (Sharpley-Whiting 1999: 27).









regain control of the body that serves to define our character, our souls, and our morality. Yet,

given the complex history surrounding the negative images associated with the Black female

image, repossessing this symbolic landscape will not be a simple task. In part this task will be

difficult because certain images are ingrained in the individual psyches of women of African

descent. For Black women these images speak "to" us and "through" us as we police each

other's "presentations of self" (Goffman 1959). Recognizing this internal level of control among

African-descended women prompted me to focus on hair as a key element in the construction of

Black female identity.

Performing Identity in the Diaspora

Public, political, and extremely personal for women of African descent, it only makes

sense that hair and hairstyles would eventually be interpreted as a prime domain for reproducing

and transforming social meaning. Hair is a multilevel, multi-vocal symbol that is imbued with a

plethora of ideas about sexuality (Cooper 1971; Mageo 1994), socioeconomic status (Banks

1997; Bonner 1994; Harris and Johnson 2001; Herron and Cepeda 1997; Zollar and Herron

2001), political beliefs (Rooks 2001), and even ethnic identity (Brown 1994). Despite the

nomenclature used, concepts of "good hair" and "bad hair" still exist in Africa and the African

Diaspora (Banks 1997; Bennett and Dickerson 2001; Bonner 1994; Harris and Johnson 2001;

Herron and Cepeda 1997; Zollar and Herron 2001). These concepts prompted me to ask, "What

is good hair?" How does one assess the quality of another individual's hair and how does having

what is classified as "good" hair influence your life? Moreover, what is "bad" hair and how are

these values transmitted culturally? Is bad hair resistance hair while good hair is compliant? I

believe that the symbolism associated with "bad" or "nappy" hair goes beyond a mere indication

of type of hair texture. An analysis of statements made by informants in my preliminary

research, such as, "boy, he got some good hair, I bet he will make some pretty babies" reveals









that hair texture also implies perceived biological quality [personal communication with author,

December 10, 2004). In the African-American community the word "nappy" itself, which is

often used to characterize "bad" hair, is almost as offensive as a racial slur.

For example in New York City a White teacher read a book entitled Nappy Hair (Herron

and Cepeda 1997) to her class and was suspended from work after being bombarded with threats

from angry Black parents. Despite the fact that the children's book was written by a Black

woman and espoused a message of self love for the natural diversity of Black hair textures, many

people rejected the positive image espoused by the book because of the negative symbolism they

associated with the word "nappy." By investigating the meaning of hair texture, my research

focuses on the lived experiences surrounding "good" and "nappy" hair. Or even more recently

when Don Imus, one of the country's most popular radio talk show hosts described the Rutgers

women's baseball team as "nappy headed ho's" the media began questioning whether his

comments could bring down a multimillion-dollar media business (Lieberman, et al. 2007).

However his producer, Bernard McGuirk, made similar comments about the National Collegiate

Athletic Association (NCAA) women's basketball final being a competition between the

"Jigaboos vs. the Wannabees" and this slur barely raised an eyebrow (Carr 2007). McGuirk did

not use the word nappy so his comments did not trigger the same reaction. The word nappy is

powerful because of its symbolic meaning among African-descended women. Hair really matters

to women of African descent and this is why it serves as a valid and significant area of inquiry

(Banks 2000).

Agency, Perception, and Hair

Any discussion of the Black body requires a focus on its materiality. As a society we are

drawn to imagery composed of skin, nails, lips, hair, and body forms; however, this is never the

entire enunciation of the Black body because it is inextricably connected to historical









representation and both individual and societal perception and interpretation (Bennett and

Dickerson 2001). These perceptions and interpretations vary immensely depending on the

contexts within which they are experienced. Following Ian Hodder, who writes that material

culture is used by individuals as a medium for communication, conformity and identity

expression I assert that, "an individual's guise may be transient and temporary, depending on

context" (Hodder 1982:27). So although some theorists assert that the use of straight hair is

evidence of self hatred, I believe that hairstyle choices may serve different functions depending

on the context they are displayed within. For the Black female, however, institutionalized racism

and chattel slavery is the prism through which her body has been experienced and interpreted.

This ideology creates a permanent and fixed impression of her in the minds of her peers and

oppressors.

Historically, in the United States, the Black female body became chattel for breeding and

an elaborate racial ideology was developed that made her the quintessential dichotomy. She

became simultaneously hyper-visible and invisible, masculine and womanly, repugnant and

desirable, but she always remained identifiable through her hair texture, skin, and facial features

(Bennett and Dickerson 2001; Gilliam 1997). Despite the fact that race is not a biological reality,

forensic anthropologists are still using hair as a component for determining the "race" of

unknown subjects (Smay and Armelagos 2000). Linking "race" to hair is not a new concept

among anthropologists and even Firth noted that physical anthropologists have argued that, "hair

[texture] is apparently a true racial character in man, hereditary and unaffected by environment"

(Firth 1973a:263).

According to the work of authors like Pravaz, Williams, Smedley and Loren, identifiable

bodily features such as hair texture and skin color were placed on a racial continuum by









colonizers who graded individuals by their percentage of Whiteness (Pravaz 2003; Smedley

1998; Williams 2000). Different treatment was afforded to people based on their determined

percentage of Whiteness and thus perceived racial differences served as a basis for status

differences (Loren 2001; Pravaz 2003). From slavery up to the present 21st century the Black

female body has been unable to discard the negative imagery assigned to it. The genesis of the

concepts regarding "good" hair and "bad" can be found in a history of racial classification and

social hierarchy. It is within this crucible of 500 years of White supremacy and racial oppression

that the Black female body has been forged, stigmatized and devalued, thereby creating a

fracture in the essence of her personal identity and public perception. I would suggest that some

aspects of Black women's beautification rituals became a form of agency and through these

rituals Black women's hair became a location for symbolic action and interaction.



Functional Definitions of Key Hairstyle Terms

Basic Hair Biology

This ethnography documents the symbolic meanings attributed to hair and hairstyle choice

among women of African descent. In order to effectively discuss the symbolic meanings

associated with hairstyles and hair texture I must begin by explaining the biological reality of

hair. This is important because a firm understanding of what hair is "physically" helps explicate

what it does "symbolically."

All hair begins as slender threadlike outgrowth of keratin, or dead protein that protrudes

from the skin. This keratin has three main morphological areas, the cuticle or translucent scale

like outer layer of the hair shaft, the cortex which can be conceptualized as the meat of the hair

shaft, and the medulla which is the central core of the hair shaft (Brannon 2006; Deedrick and

Koch 2004; Paus and Cotsarelis 1999: see Figures 1-4 and 1-5).









Despite the fact that the concept of race does not account for human genetic variation,

forensic anthropologists have used the morphological variations in hair to create typologies that

are associated with the socially constructed categories called race (Deedrick 2000; Smay and

Armelagos 2000). These variations are based on the shape of the hair follicle which directly

influences the shape of the hair shaft. In the past, anthropologists associated hair with the

physical stereotypes we call "races," the category Caucasian represented European origin,

Ethiopian or Negroid were of African origin, and Mongoloid described people of Asian origin

(Deedrick 2000; Deedrick and Koch 2004; Marks 1995: 54). According to Deedrick and Koch,

in some instances the racial characteristics exhibited are not clearly defined, indicating the hair

may be of mixed-racial origin (2004). However, it is not clear what these instances may be.

Deedrick and Koch go on to note that studies on the morphology of hair by race reveal that

Caucasian hair is oval to round shaped with even pigment and a medium size cuticle. Deedrick

writes that it is this oval shape that gives the so called Caucasian hair a straight or mildly wavy

appearance. For identification purposes round hair shafts with an auburn pigment and thick

cuticle are sorted into the category of Mongoloid or Asian hair (Deedrick 2000). Deedrick notes

that this shape of the hair cells makes it appear very straight. Finally, Deedrick explains that hair

that has been categorized as Negroid or African appears to be primarily elliptical or flat shaped

with dense pigmentation and a thin cuticle (Deedrick and Koch 2004; McClain 1998). This flat

shape of the hair cells combined with naturally lower levels of scalp oil and larger amounts of

sulfur gives African typed hair an extremely curly appearance. This texture of hair is susceptible

to twisting or buckling, conditions that can create splits in the hair shaft (Deedrick and Koch

2004). These factors work in unison to create the tightly twisted hair that is associated with









people of African descent. This naturally formed hair texture is the root of my discussion about

the meaning of hair among women of African descent.

The curly hair texture associated with being of African descent can be manipulated into

various styles, using assorted techniques that range from chemical applications to manual

contortions. My preliminary research and participant observation revealed eight major hairstyles

that were salient to my research participants. So I focused my work on what the women

identified as the most prominent styles among women of African descent. These hairstyles are

called relaxers or perms, braids, weaves, twists, cornrows, jheri curls, short naturals and

dreadlocks. What follows is a basic discussion of the procedures used to create these styles.

Black Hairstyles

This section will provide a description of the chemical and manual processes women of

African descent go through to achieve the eight styles mentioned in the previous section. An

important component of my research is a detailed explanation of how these hairstyles are

created. For a detailed discussion of the historical significance related to these different styles

see (Banks 2000; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Johnson 2004; Johnson 1991; Tyler 1990).

Chemical relaxers are worn by an estimated 75 percent of African-descended women

(Quinn, et al. 2003; Russell, et al. 1992:91). Chemical relaxing is completed by the application of

a cream or lotion mixture of sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, or calcium hydroxide

(Meadows 2001) to penetrate the cortex of the hair shaft and break the cross bonds of the cortical

layer (Babino, et al. 1995; Browne 1989; Fletcher 2000; Kinard 1997; McClain 1998; Meadows

2001; Quinn, et al. 2003). This process changes the molecular structure of the hair by chemically

removing its tight curl pattern. The hair takes on the appearance of being straight. However, this

process also weakens the hair shaft and over time results in breakage. Among women of African

descent in the United States, this process is commonly called a "perm" (Babino, et al. 1995;









Banks 2000; Browne 1989; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Cornwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Ebong 2001;

Fletcher 2000; Harris and Johnson 2001; jones 1994; Kinard 1997; Quinn, et al. 2003; Rankin

and Korlewala 1993; Sieber, et al. 2000: see Figure 1-7). This style is becoming even more

popular as products like, "Soft & Beautiful Just For Me Texture Softener" by Alberto Culver, are

marketed towards girls as young as five and their mothers as an alternative to hair pressing or

relaxing. This product is called a no lye conditioning relaxer and it purports to cause less

breakage than simply combing natural hair. The product is replete with a Web Site geared

towards young girls where they can become a product VIP member, play games, and compete to

win a doll made in their own image (http://www.jfmvipclub.com/). Chemical relaxing is an

extension of thermal styling methods such as flat ironing, hot combing, and curling (see Figure

1-6 Hot Combs). These thermal methods of hair straightening provide a similar hairstyle

appearance, but they do not cause permanent changes in the chemical make up of the hair.

In Africa, particularly among the Yoruba, cornrow braids were used to symbolize

important cultural markers such as ethnicity, social status, religion, and age (Sieber, et al. 2000).

It is possible to produce very artistic cornrow styles that range from simple lines to complex

replicas of geometrical shapes Braiding has traditionally involved twisting three sections of hair

in an overlapping motion until the end of the hair is reached. Individual braids may also be called

plaits. Micro-braids are another popular braid style that is created by adding synthetic or human

hair to the three sections of the wearers' hair, thereby extending the length and fullness of the

style (see Figure 1-8). One of the drawbacks that wearers have with this style occurs when the

braids are too tight which results in hair loss from excessive tension on the hair follicles.

Braiding also includes a process called cornrowing or canerowing (see Figure 1-9). This process

is where hair is braided very close to the scalp. (Babino, et al. 1995; Banks 2000; Browne 1989;









Byrd and Tharps 2001; Cornwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Ebong 2001; Fletcher 2000; Harris and

Johnson 2001; jones 1994; Kinard 1997; Rankin and Korlewala 1993). Braids have grown into a

popular style and have been donned by famous entertainers such as Brandy and Alicia Keyes.

Weaves are a set of hairstyling practices that has several different modes of production.

One way to create a weave involves relaxing the hair and then placing several small cornrow

braids in the middle and back of the head. Then artificial hair that has been attached to a weft, or

plastic strip, is sewn on to these cornrow braids with a needle and thread. The relaxed hair is then

used to conceal the weft and the real and artificial hair is blended together to create the illusion

of longer thicker hair. Another way to create a weave style involves using a special glue to

attach small amounts of hair to small sections of hair at the base of the scalp (see Figure 1-10).

These additions increase the volume and length of the hair. Yet another procedure for weaving

involves covering the entire head with a type of stocking material and then applying the synthetic

or human hair over the entire head. The hair can be glued to the stocking or sewn to the stocking

but it creates a type of long term wig that is much more difficult to remove than a traditional wig

(Babino, et al. 1995; Banks 2000; Browne 1989; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Comwell 1997; Draelos

1997; Ebong 2001; Fletcher 2000; Harris and Johnson 2001; jones 1994; Kinard 1997; Rankin

and Korlewala 1993; Sieber, et al. 2000).

Twists are another hairstyle that has become popular. This style is created by twisting two

sections of hair together until the end is reached. This style can be achieved with or without the

addition of extra human or synthetic hair (see Figure 1-12).

In the 1980s, a chemically based hairstyle was introduced called ajheri curl. This hairstyle

is produced by applying two different chemical processes to the hair. The initial part of the

process uses a chemical similar to a relaxer so that the molecular bonds in the natural curl pattern









of the hair are relaxed. Then after the natural curls are loosened the hair is set on perm rods. A

second chemical solution is applied to the hair while the perm rods are in place and this locks in

a larger curl pattern that is dictated by the size of the perm rods. This procedure is more involved

than the previously described relaxer. In fact, the application of two oppositional chemicals can

be very damaging and drying to the hair and wearers are required to frequently moisturize the

hair with oil products (see Figure 1-12). This need to frequently apply oil to the hair diminished

the popularity of this style, since it often left the hair wet and oily for hours after the products

were applied (Armstrong, et al.; Babino, et al. 1995; Banks; Browne; Byrd and Tharps;

Cornwell; Draelos; Ebong; Fletcher; Harris and Johnson; Kinard; Rankin and Korlewala; Sieber,

et al. 2000).

Short naturals are a style created by cropping the hair close to the scalp. The length of the

hair can range from under an inch to several inches in length. The primary characteristic that

distinguishes this hairstyle is that it is usually devoid of chemicals. This style has also been the

predecessor of a style known as the Afro. The Afro is produced by combing the natural hair

away from the scalp. The curl pattern in Black hair allows the hair to stand away from the scalp

without dropping. This natural strength can be used to create a dome-like hairstyle that can be

molded with light patting (Babino, et al. 1995; Banks 2000; Browne 1989; Byrd and Tharps

2001; Comwell 1997; Draelos 1997; Hatton 1994).

Dreadlocks, dreads, or locks, is a hairstyle that is achieved by allowing the hair to

intertwine and twist into its natural curl pattern. This process may take weeks or even months to

achieve depending on the tightness of the individuals curl pattern. In order to achieve this style

wearers may avoid washing or combing the hair for several weeks or even months. This process

causes the hair to become matted and once the dreadlock is formed it cannot be combed out. In









order to change the hairstyle the wearer would be required to cut the dreadlocks off. This

process can occur naturally or it can be "styled" by twisting or palm rolling techniques (Flinker

1985; Johnson 1991; S.B.G. 1980). The term dreadlocks was actually coined by the Rastafarian

religious movement and the hairstyle was popularized in the 1980s by rock star Bob Marley.

However, the hairstyle has been worn by people in many different cultures prior to and since the

advent of the religious movement (Banks 1997; Ebong 2001; Seiber 2000). For example, the

Biblical figures Sampson and John the Baptist are reported to have worn dreadlocks (Mastalia

and Pagano 1999). Furthermore, descriptions of the hairstyle can be found in the Veda scriptures

of India and the style is worn by Sadhus (holy men) and Sadhvis (holy women) in India to this

day (Mastalia and Pagano 1999). The style is worn by a diverse group of people across the globe

including the Maasai, the Mau Mau, and New Guineans (Mastalia and Pagano 1999; Sieber, et

al. 2000). I have taken the time to describe these eight Black hair forms so that my discussions

about the symbolism associated with Black hairstyles can focus on what they signify and not the

signs themselves.

Summary and Conclusions

In this chapter I lay the groundwork for understanding all the key concepts and issues that

will be further explored in the dissertation. I used chapter one to introduce the purpose of the

study, discuss the problem, and present the research questions. This is followed by a discussion

of the rationale for selecting this topic and functional descriptions of the hairstyles identified by

my participants as salient. This section includes a discussion of Blackness, the connection

between color and race, the history of the Black female body, the biology of hair and finally the

Black hairstyles identified to be salient by my research participants.

In chapter two, I review the literature by starting with the psychoanalytical and

anthropological discussions of hair as it relates to Whites. This general hair theory is important









because it serves as the basis for many of the contemporary theories about Black hair and also

reveals how hair has been interpreted by social scientists. After reviewing the general literature

on hair I examine the theories produced about Black hair and the African Diaspora by Black

psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. I extend my review of the literature on hair

theory to include the African Diaspora because it is important for me to situate my work within

this conceptual area of study. This chronological review of the literature serves as a historical

overview of Black hair culture.

Chapter three describes my research design. In this section the methodology I used is

presented and the specific methods utilized to gather the data for my study are reviewed. While

discussing the settings in which my research took place I also reflect on the importance of my

role as a native researcher and the impact this had on my ability to implement my research

strategy. This chapter also includes a description of my sampling techniques and sample

demographics.

Chapter four is where I begin discussing the data from my participant observation, such as

interviews, and digital storytelling exercises. The voices of African-descended women dominate

this chapter with the articulation of hair stories and hair symbolism.

Chapter five is a summary of the data obtained through a survey and an online experiment.

This visual presentation of data gleaned from the experiment is juxtaposed and verified against

the numerical data that the respondents provided me with in the survey. This chapter also

discusses the political economy of hair as it relates to the human hair trade and hair braiding as a

profession.

In chapter six, I flesh out the concept of hair as a cultural domain. It is here that I

synthesize the information found in the first five chapters, including my data analysis to create a









conceptual framework for the cultural domain of hair. While exploring the parameters of the

cultural domain of hair for African-descended women I conclude that this domain functions as an

important component in the construction of cultural and personal identity for African-descended

women. In this final chapter I also discuss the limitations of my study, reevaluate my research

goals, and identify opportunities for additional academic research.



























Figure 1-1 Nakia Brown. Photograph courtesy ofRyan Santoo and Sybil Dione Rosado. Nakia
Brown says she wears dreadlocks as her choice of hairstyle because of pride. She
claims to be a strong, independent, proud Black female. With this in mind she has
chosen her hairstyle to depict these values that have been instilled in her from her
family. She prefers to wear dreadlocks above braids or other choices because she
considers them the most distinctive of African-American hair culture. Which other
race's hair can form as beautiful or natural locks as Black person's can? Nakia is
from the South and has not remembered a time when she did not face some form of
discrimination from the prejudiced majority. However, instead of wallowing in self-
pity, she has struck back and is in college when many wrote her off before. Many
people who previously knew her never thought that Nakia would make it as far as
college. She hopes to further surpass their expectations by graduating and leading a
successful professional and personal life. Nakia sees dreadlocks as the most
fundamental African-American hairstyle and wishes it were more wide spread. Yes,
you do tend to be stereotyped a lot quicker with dreadlocks than without them, but
Nakia says it is a small price to pay for personal gratification. Her hair is symbolic
also of her social position and culture. Nakia was chosen because a female with
dreadlocks could not be neglected when addressing an African-American hair survey.
It is a significant part of the culture and recently has become much more popular
amongst females. I am certain, like Nakia, they wear dreadlocks as symbols of their
ethnic individuality and with a certain degree of pride. ---Ryan Santoo, Benedict
College Student response to digital storytelling assignment.
























-A -






Figure 1-2 La Belle Hottentot circa 1814. Permission Granted by Bibliothque Nationale, Paris.



Figure 1-2 La Belle Hottentot circa 1814. Permission Granted by Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.









IF THESE FAT. BLACK
WELFARE QUEENS ARE 50
STRAPPED FOR CASH,
SHOW COME THERE
ALWAYS SPORTInG
SHuODREDS OF
DOLLARS
4 ; WORTH


Figure 1-3 Fat black welfare queens cartoon. [Reprinted with permission from Tom Metzger
publisher of the Big Book of Racist Cartoon and The Insurgent website at
www.resist.com ].



































Figure 1-4 Cross section of hair follicle. [Reprinted with permission of Douglas Deedrick 2000,
Hair Fibers Crime and Evidence Part 1 Forensic Science Communications 2:3.].














hair shlt .


* e5idermis




erfmis



eotus gland





sub-cutaneous issue


caoilary


Figure 1-5 Cross section of hair and scalp. [Reprinted with permission of Douglas Deedrick and
Sandra Koch 2004, Microscopy of hair Part 1 Forensic Science Communications
6:1.].







































Figure 1-6 Hot Combs. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.






































Figure 1-7 Completed relaxer style. Photograph courtesy of Don Johnson and Sybil Dione
Rosado.






























Figure 1-8 Hair being braided with synthetic hair. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.

































Figure 1-9 Cornrow hairstyle being crafted with synthetic hair. Photograph courtesy of Sybil
Dione Rosado.













yr.


Figure 1-10 Weave hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.









































Figure 1-11 Twists hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.


















































Figure 1-12 Jheri curl photo. Sybil Dione Rosado at age 12 photograph courtesy of Don L.
Johnson.













54









































Figure 1-13 Short natural hairstyle photo. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Sybil Johnson.























































Figure 1-14 Long dreadlocks hairstyle. Photograph courtesy of Sybil Dione Rosado.








56









CHAPTER 2
THEORIZING THE BODY AND HAIR: A HISTORICAL LITERATURE REVIEW

Ever since the Biblical Samson was brought down by Delilah, who cut his seven locks,

hair has been a fascinating and symbolic cultural entity (The New King James Version, Judg. 16.

20). However, this fascination has not been restricted to one culture. The Masai of Kenya

believed their chief would lose his power if his chin was shaved; some Native American tribes

removed the scalps of their enemies in order to release their souls and capture their power; and

strict Orthodox Jews still maintain prohibitions against shaving (Cooper 1971). Hair has

represented everything from virility to submission and sexual restraint. As early as 1886

anthropologist, G.A. Wilken studied the relevance of hairdressing as it pertained to ritual

mourning (Wilken 1886). Recent research on hair reveals that it is an extremely important factor

in African American women's lives (Banks 2000).

My research primarily focuses on the beliefs about hair held by women who identify

themselves as being of African descent in the American South. Obviously, the symbols have

changed over time and vary from culture to culture, but hair remains an extremely salient topic

for social scientists and in particular anthropologists. I have crafted this chapter to examine the

socioeconomic and cultural construction of the body; review the psychoanalytical, and

anthropological literature on hair symbolism; discuss the specialized role of hair among African-

descended women in America; provide the reader with what I call a Black hair historiography;

and present a literature review of the social science writings on Black hair. These activities were

conducted in order to answer the following research questions:

* Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent associate with their hair
texture and hairstyle choice?

* If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among women of
African descent?











Socioeconomic and Cultural Construction of the Body

Since hair is simply one small part of the body, I believe that any discussion of its

anthropological significance must begin with the broader concept of how the body has been

viewed by some anthropologists and sociologists. Discussing the body first will help me to

contextualize the history and symbolic meaning of hair among African American women.

Moreover, this discussion is crafted to help the reader understand the magnitude of body politics

and how hair can possibly serve as an extension of an individual's personality, sexuality,

political inclination, or religion. Thus, to understand the symbolic meanings with which hair may

have been imbued, it is helpful to start with how the body has been symbolized.

Anthropologist Mary Douglas (2003) theorized that the body is an organ of

communication that is used to actively create symbols to help us maintain our societies. Douglas

states that, "the physical body is a microcosm of society" (Douglas 2003:76-77). My reading of

Douglas' work is that she envisions the human body as a symbol that fluctuates with cultural

change. As a culture becomes more restrictive, the way in which its members treat their bodies

becomes more controlled. The parallel that Douglas creates between society and the body seems

to be based on a combination of the sociological theory of functionalism and social

interactionism. The syllogism that can be crafted from Douglas' work is that the body is a

microcosm of society, hair is a part of the body, and therefore hair is a microcosm of society.

But, this may be a specious argument and in part the purpose of my research is to investigate

whether or not there are shared meanings about hair that constitute a cultural domain. Douglas's

work remains useful to me because it gives an indication of how powerful the body and by

extention hair have been viewed.









Some philosophers and sociologists have also asserted that the body functions as a symbol

(Goffman 1959), a source of power (Foucault 1979), and as a statement of identity (Synnott

1987). Reading these ideas, I find myself believing that the body is a powerful location for the

creation of identity and symbolization. If our bodies all looked the same I am sure that we would

create a new way to craft our individuality. However, we do not all look alike and we use our

bodies to carve out individual identities from our society's populace. Our bodies mark us and we

mark our bodies to indicate who we are, what we think, and how we feel as members of the

society we exist within. Hewitt says, "Marking the body enculturates and differentiates an

individual, and the precise meaning of body modification is unique for each person and each

society"(Hewitt 1997:11).

It is my contention that our particular culture teaches us how to control our bodies and thus

harness our power as individual symbolizing beings. We are active participants in the creation of

our identities as our culture shapes our perceptions of what these identities should entail. A good

example of this relationship between identity production and cultural pressure is expressed by

one of my research participants when she relates this story about her pursuit of employment in

the 1970's,

The guy said Uhm you know you have to have a work visa and I said what do you mean I
have to have a work visa? He said aren't you foreign? I said no I'm from Alabama! So at
that point I started growing the perm out you know, 'cause that meant that if he couldn't
identify me for who I was, then maybe I wasn't really identifying me for who I was. [Ms.
Donna Todd, Interview March 2005].

Donna's analysis of her own production of identity indicates that she was aware of the

direct relationship between how she manipulated her bodily appearance and how society would

judge her. Donna clearly provides an example of how we actively craft our identities in relation

to societal pressure. Understanding this societal pressure and control over the body is valuable









because it serves as the locus of what Pierre Bourdieu terms "symbolic capital" (Bourdieu 1986;

Bourdieu 1990).

In the Logic ofPractice, Pierre Bourdieu outlines the validity of symbolic capital as a

strategy for enhancing one's economic prowess (Bourdieu 1990). He argues that symbolic capital

operates as a form of credit based on the belief that its possessor is wealthy and therefore

honorable (Bourdieu 1990; Kato 2004:4). This symbolic capital is inherently powered by social

definitions of value. These social definitions of value emanate from individual cultures where

cultural capital is formed through a process of economic socialization (Bourdieu 1990). Cultural

capital is a form of knowledge that equips agents with the ability to decipher cultural artifacts

and relations and this cultural capital can be transformed into economic capital.

An example of economic socialization occurs among women of African descent in the

American South when they make their first visit to a beauty supply store that sells products

specifically tailored to them. Upon entering these stores, the women or girls are exposed to a

cornucopia of gels, oils, and other potions that are purported to dramatically increase hair

growth. The price of the product correlates with its alleged effectiveness. The more effective the

product is in generating hair growth the more it costs. This socialization experiences teaches the

women that long hair is valuable, so valuable that it even costs more to acquire (Akbari 2002;

Allahar 1993; Archer 1968; Ashe 1995; Banks 1997; Banks 2000; Bennett and Dickerson 2001;

Bond and Cash 1991; Brooks 2001; Brown 1994; Byrd and Tharps 2001; Chambers, et al. 1992;

Jacobs-Huey 1999; Perkins 1996; Persadsingh 2003; Rooks 1994). Being actively socialized

about the material worth of hair reinforces its symbolic value for women. Armed with an

understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural construction of the body we are now prepared

to discuss hair symbolism.









Psychoanalytical and Anthropological Literature on Hair Symbolism

In order to understand the importance of hair as a possible shared symbolic meaning I

begin by trying to understand the various ways in which social scientist and philosophers have

grappled with the symbolism of hair. In this section I will explore some of the key theoretical

views that historically have informed our thinking about hair. Some of the earliest social science

theories on hair can be traced back to Freud's (1922) posthumous publication, "The Medusa's

Hair."

Researchers have described Freud's note as a psychoanalytical assessment that equated the

fear of matted locks of hair to castration (Banks 1997; Obeyesekere 1981), This "castration

complex" is a common theme in Freud's work and when analyzing dreams he often seems to

equate hair cutting, baldness, and even tooth loss to castration (Freud 1938:595; Petocz 1999).

Freud's fascination with the symbols of castration, led him to assert that a woman's hair and

mouth were synonymous to her genitals in dreams. As Freud describes the "genital symbols in

mythology," he points out that "above all the snake, is the most important symbol of the male

member" (Freud 1938:373; Petocz 1999). Consequently when considering the snakes protruding

from Medusa's head, Freud analyzes the snake hair as a phallic symbol and the removal of her

head and hair to be symbolic of castration. Sigmund Freud's work serves as the starting point for

psychoanalytic theories regarding hair in anthropology.

Charles Berg (1951) followed Freud's reliance on psychoanalytic theory in his book The

Unconscious Significance ofHair. Berg delved into the psychoanalytical meaning of hair in

dreams and folklore. He extended Freud's analysis of hair cutting as a "castration complex," to

argue that head hair was a universal symbol for genitals and thus cutting hair was a symbolic

form of castration and denial of sexual freedom. Berg relied on ancient ethnographic evidence to

assert that this castration anxiety was a "cultural universal" that even transcended gender. Berg









writes, "If we enquire further into the mysterious nature of this strength invested in the hair we

discover that it is held to have fertilizing powers" (Berg 1951:23). He also states that, "I shall

merely call attention to the fact that this hair behaviour has in women become so important that it

has been specialized and relegated to a host of professionals" (Berg 1951:4). Berg viewed

hairdressing as a ritualistic celebration and he was determined to unearth its psychological

meaning.

Considering the historical development of Freud's psychoanalytic theory as a treatment for

neurotic, wealthy European women, I find it problematic to use this approach in the study of a

more diverse population. Psychoanalytic theory underestimates the role environment plays on

individual personality development, and overemphasizes the influence of the sex drive. While I

agree with Berg's and Freud's views of hair dressing as a ritual infused with multiple symbols

and meaning I do not rely on their assertions that hair is primarily representative of sexual

organs.

Anthropology has been instrumental in affirming that Freud and Berg were correct in

believing that hair held symbolic importance and contained focused unconscious meaning. In

1958, anthropologist Edmund Leach commented on this aspect of Berg's work in the essay,

Magical Hair. In Magical Hair Leach reexamined the ethnographic evidence cited by Berg and

presented his own ethnographic examples in order to arrive at the same conclusions. Interestingly

Leach expanded the notion of hair as a symbol by providing additional examples of this reality in

different cultures.

Leach argued that hair is associated with sexual relations in a multitude of cultures. Leach

was concerned with finding out "where the content of symbols come from and how is it that

some symbols are more emotionally loaded than others" (Leach 1958:147). He divided the social









world into a public realm which consisted of our public interactions in our culture and a private

personal realm where we craft our individual personalities and symbols in preparation for our

public performances. For Leach symbolic meanings were the provenance of the public realm

and thus they had very little personal significance. He concluded that hair is a material entity that

serves as a public symbol. However, for Leach the conscious public symbol of hair can only be

moderately illuminated by psychoanalytical theory. Leach's emphasis on locating the origin and

emotion attached to symbolic meanings attributed to hair adds credence to my research questions

about the shared meaning of hair and the possibility these meanings constitute a cultural domain.

By investigating the origin and symbolic value of hair textures and styles my work parallels

Leach's.

A contemporary update on Leach's and Freud's assertion that hair contains symbolic

sexual powers can be found in Wendy Cooper's Hair: Sex, Society, and Symbolism (1971),

which provides an in-depth analysis of the history of hair and hairstyles from ancient Egyptian

times to the hippies of the 1970s. Cooper discussed how hair has been linked to female sexuality

in many cultures and she notes that the appeal of women's head hair is almost a cultural

universal. Cooper also delved into the history of hairdressing and the hair industry. She argued

that hairdressers were artists who were charged with the renewal of women's glamour, spirit, and

confidence (Cooper 1971:181). Overall, she provided an in-depth look at the history of hair and

its symbolic importance in various cultures. Cooper's work, when combined with Berg's,

provides a firm basis for my inquiry into the function of beauty shops in the art of ritualistic

hairdressing. Cooper laid the foundation for researchers to interrogate the beauty industry and its

workers as producers of culture.









In the essay Social Hair C.R. Hallpike, (1969) challenged the association Leach made

between hair cutting, castration, and hair length as an indication of sexuality. Although Hallpike

agreed that hair has been perceived as the seat of the soul, he argued that there was no clear

evidence linking hair to libido and thus symbolic castration. Hallpike pointed out that with

Berg's logic everything cut or removed from the body would be reduced to symbolic castration.

He offered men's beards as a more appropriate location for symbolism associated with castration.

Hallpike also theorized that donning long hair was symbolic of being outside of society

and cutting or hairdressing equaled social control and the reentry into society (Turner 1975).

Hallpike critiqued Leach's reliance on the psychoanalytic paradigm that focused on an

individual's understanding of symbols. Instead Hallpike (1969) advocated determining the

structure of symbolism as it relates to the group's cosmology, social organization, and values.

Hallpike says,

once the anthropologist has discerned the structure of the symbolism in the culture he is
investigating, his work is complete. The structure is "there" in the symbolism, just as the
structure is "there" in a language analysed by the linguist (1969:263).

Hallpike's work encouraged me to investigate how hair symbolism might shape the

worldview of African-descended women. By characterizing hair as a symbol of group

cosmology Hallpike positively influenced my belief that hair could be a cultural belief domain.

Raymond Firth's essay, Hair as Private Asset and Public Symbol (Firth 1973a), confirmed

Cooper's assertion that hair is a true "racial" characteristic. Firth also argued that the significance

of hair and hairstyles is a cultural universal. For Firth hair and hairstyles were used as a form of

social expression and control. For example, Firth mentions the use of the Afro by women in the

mid-1960s as a symbol of ethnic identity and politics. He also made an important observation

when he identified the link that African Americans perceive between non-kinky hair and the

social status of Whites (Firth 1973a:273). Firth argued that although hair is a private asset its









visibility also makes it a public symbol. Like Hallpike, Firth saw a connection between hair

length and social control, particularly in Western culture. But, he differed by noting that in the

Buddhist belief system, long hair is associated with power and shorn hair "symbolizes

subjugation of the self to social rule" (Firth 1973a:290).

Firth recognized that "different forms of social control may demand different forms of hair

treatment, even in the same society" (Firth 1973a:297). Therefore, although he argued that hair is

a universal symbol, he admits that its meaning is inherently variable. Firth made some of the

first arguments about the integration of the public and private significance of hair. For example

he connects the private to the public and political display of hairstyles for African American

women when he writes:

A more recent kind of statement, indicating not a personal relationship so much as a
personal commitment, has been the wearing of 'Afro' hair styles by black American
women. Appearing in the mid-1960s as a manifestation of black pride, with its suggestion
of African, not American origins and independence, the 'Afro' became a symbol of ethnic
identity and as such a political statement (Firth 1973a: 297).

Firth's work strongly influenced my research on several levels. His recognition of the

symbolic importance of hair for African Americans, his arguments about the public and private

value of hair, and finally his acknowledgement of the potential for intra-cultural variation of

symbolic beliefs make his work a suitable foundation for my research.

In Hair, Sex and Dirt, P. Hershman (1974) conducted what he called an ethnography of

body symbolism. In this ethnography, which focuses on hair within Hindu and Sikh Punjabis

cultures, he attempted to test the universality of particular symbols. Hershman supported the

psychoanalytical thesis presented by Berg that said hair is associated with genitals. However, he

asserted that what a symbol "is" should be separate from what a symbol "says or does"

(Hershman 1974:291). Subsequently for him hair never means any one particular thing, but

rather in various contexts it is used as a means of expressing different things (Hershman









1974:279). Thus Hershman asserted that although symbols gain their emotive power from a

subconscious association with genitals once these symbols are manipulated by cultural rituals

they become expressions of cultural values. Hershman's recognition that the symbolic meanings

associated with hair may vary depending on the context serves as another important prong in the

framework for my research.

Gananath Obeyesekere (1981) used his book entitled Medusa's Hair, in an attempt to

supersede traditional ethnography by focusing on the cultural, social, and psychological

dimensions of his informants lives. Obeyesekere criticized Leach's analysis of private versus

personal symbols when he argued that cultural meanings are linked to personal experience and

personal symbols. In other words, the public symbol is directly connected to the private symbol.

Despite the fact that Obeyesekere recognized the value of psychoanalytic theory, he criticized the

notion advanced by Berg that hair is a symbolic penis.

Obeyesekere also pointed out the ethnocentrism in both Leach and Berg's analysis of hair

symbolism. Obeyesekere argued that:

The anthropologist works on the assumption that cultural forms derived from Western
thought--magic, ritual, myth, and so forth--are part of an integrated symbolic order we call
culture, and that all of it can be analyzed in the identical manner. Furthermore, note that
terms like myth and magic are labels from popular Western thought; these categories are
not found in most non-Western systems the presumption that such labels have cross
cultural value...is simply unsupported (1981:18).

He encouraged researchers to investigate the meaning that individuals attach to symbols

instead of attempting to infer it from our ethnocentric cultural standpoints. He pointed out that

Berg and Leach erred because they inferred the meaning of the symbol from itself and did not

refer to the persons in the culture who employ the symbol (Obeyesekere 1981). By investigating

the matted hair of the Hindu ascetic, Obeyesekere locates the origin of the symbol, the personal









meaning of the symbol for the individuals, and the social or cultural message the symbol

communicates to the group.

Obeyeskere advocated a methodology that references the group, the individual, and the

culture in which they live when attempting to understand symbols. His work is particularly

influential to my research as a methodological guide. I have crafted my research to elicit the

origin, meaning, and cultural messages imbued in Black women's hair. Hair theorists have

postulated that hair can be used as a form of resistance to conventional ideas (Mageo 1994), but

it can also simultaneously convey oppressive and liberating messages about a person's beliefs,

morality, sexual orientation, politics and religious sentiments through its symbolism (Eilberg-

Schwartz and Doniger 1995). In my research, focusing on the group, the individual, and the

culture allows for the possibility of uncovering grounded theory specifically about the hair

culture of African-descended women.

Hair among African-Descended Women in the American South

The international performance ensemble known as the Urban Bush Women is dedicated to

social activism and community development. For over twenty years they have sought to

enlighten the public, encourage community development, and speak out against oppression and

exploitation. Their performances celebrate the beauty of Black womanhood and the cultural

influences of the African Diaspora. Recently the Urban Bush Women produced an interactive

performative dialogue about the political significance of hair. Their production entitled

"Hairstories," explores the political arena of hairstyles and textures through a multimedia dance

performance (Zollar and Herron 2001). This dance/multimedia presentation/audience

participation piece engages the concept of nappy hair and its relationship to beauty ideals and

social capital. In the scene titled "Hot Comb Blues," Zollar's group demonstrates the political,









social, aesthetic, and intergenerational conflict that stems from hairstyle choice and texture

among African-descended women.

The scene: physicalized the bur of a hot comb, the itch of a perm, and the yanking and
tugging of a mother combing her daughter's hair. The performance evoked visceral
memories in hair party participants and inspired them to tell stories about their own "hair
hell moments." These stories stimulated dialogue about what people put themselves
through to have "good hair." Further questioning led the group to consider the social
pressures behind "good hair" and "bad hair" and the origin of our values about acceptable
forms of beauty (Atlas 2005:5).

Zollar's work is important because it demonstrates how hair functions to form ideas about

identity, politics, and beauty ideals. Hair matters to African-descended women because it is a

visible manifestation of gendered and racial identity. The production of "Hairstories" is one of

many public and personal explorations of hair conducted by African-descended women in recent

years.

This play and other artistic works affirm that hair is a complex and powerful signifier for

Black women. As a result, Black women's styling of their hair is a cultural process intertwined

with what Gananath Obeyesekere calls "cultural symbols" that include historical notions about

social biology and social race (Mercer 1987; Obeyesekere 1981:2). These cultural symbols are

the expression of personal individuality in response to the culture.

The notion that African hair texture and styles are imbued with aesthetic value and

symbolic meanings did not originate with colonization and enslavement (Sieber, et al. 2000). For

example, Sieber points out that when Europeans first came into contact with West Africans they

documented the myriad forms of hairstyles on display in the population (Sieber, et al. 2000;

White and White 1995). Africans were engaging in elaborate hair grooming techniques that

included activities like shaving, braiding, curling, knotting, wrapping, and coloring. They were

also known for weaving supplementary materials into the hair for lengthening, twisting, and

adding ornamental shells, silver, leather or gold to various styles (Sieber, et al. 2000:18-24).









Hence the rituals of hair care engaged in by enslaved and contemporary people of African

descent are strikingly similar to the procedures used by pre colonized Africans (Sieber, et al.

2000; White and White 1995).

Shane and Graham White's (1995) essay on slave hair reveals that an enslaved African

woman's beauty was integrally tied to her hair texture and grooming procedures (White and

White 1995). The Whites also discuss how the slaveholders' wives would punish female slaves

by shaving their hair, particularly if it approximated the White beauty ideal. They advance the

notion that the coiffure processes of enslaved people could be read as acts of resistance. The

rationale behind their argument is that the enslaved challenged the predefined notion that they

were ugly, less humane, and unkempt by crafting palatable appearances. The Whites work is

important because they acknowledge the importance of translating the meanings behind hair

signification and also recognize the immense difficulty of the task. They note that reading the

messages produced by culturally and ethnically diverse groups of Africans in Diaspora is

difficult if our goal is to uncover the Africanisms associated with the symbols they employ.

However documenting Africanisms in the Diaspora is not my goal. In my research I focus on

understanding what hair signifies among contemporary African-descended women. I do not

speculate about the African origins of hairstyles. Instead my goal is to document the lived

experiences of contemporary African-descended women because only they can tell me what they

think and feel about hair and how it impacts their personal and public lives.

African Hair, specifically, African American women's hair has been and continues to be a

contested matter. The emotional baggage that our hair carries is readily evidenced by the

brouhaha that erupted in 1997 over Carolina Herrons' book Nappy Hair. This children's book,

which extols the virtues of loving your own natural hair, was protested by Black parents, some of









whom, incidentally, had never examined the book. The parents were simply outraged by the title

of the book. Eventually, the White teacher, Ms. Sherman, was physically threatened, suspended

from her job, and forced to transfer to another school (Heyden 1998). This violent reaction of the

parents stemmed from the use of the historically pejorative word "nappy".

The books Good and Bad Hair by Bill Gaskins (1997) and Dreads (1999) by Mastalia and

Pagano, probably fared better on the bookstand because they serve as visual documentaries of

contemporary hairstyles. But, in 1998 teenager Michelle Barskile, who wears dreadlocks, found

out that critics of Black hairstyles are not always White, when a chapter of the oldest African

American female sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, banned Barskile from

participating in their debutante ball because they disapproved of her dreadlocks (Fullwood 1998;

Hutchinson 1998). To understand why Black women have generated such a wide range of

emotional responses to hair I must explore the history and meaning of Black hair as a cultural

symbol. I have already discussed some of the contemporary dialogue about hair. In the

remainder of the chapter, I will conduct a historiography1 of Black hair, and will review some of

the most pertinent literature, research, and social commentary on Black hair.

Black Hair Historiography

The controversy surrounding the concept of straight versus nappy hair is not just a

contemporary concern. In 1859 a New York Times article recounts the public demonstration of a

hair straightening process conducted by Mr. Hodgson, a White man, who was also known as,

"the great African hair unkinker" (Bundles 2001; Harris 1974; Lester 2000; Author Unknown

1859). After the successful conversion of nappy to straight hair, a woman exclaimed that, she

would not desert her race for straight hair and Indian features (Author Unknown 1859). This



1 Historiography is the study of the corpus of body of historical works (de Chadarevian 1997).









statement is but one of many examples of how hair texture has been linked to biology and

notions of racial affiliation.

After emancipation African-descended women in America turned to various techniques to

assure their assimilation into dominant culture. During the early nineteen hundreds there was a

prominent belief that the maintenance of proper conduct and appearance would elevate the status

of the race and ensure our access to civil rights. Defining the notion of proper conduct and

appearance became a major area of discourse among leaders in the African American community

(Tyler 1990). The popularity of straightening hair among African American women can be

traced to community leaders like Booker T. Washington, Alexander Crummel, and James

Samuel Stemons. Booker T. Washington used his influence at the college he founded, Tuskegee

Institute, to teach Victorian standards of personal appearance and public decorum to an entire

generation of Blacks. Crummel advocated the assimilation of Victorian or White middle class

values and codes of conduct for Blacks because he believed that European culture was the most

advanced in the world (Moses 1978; Tyler 1990:237).

Stemons, a Black postal worker, spoke vehemently throughout the country at Black

churches and organizations concerning his belief that mob violence was instigated by

inappropriate Black appearance and conduct. He advocated the assimilation of Anglo Saxon

manners and personal appearance as a way for respectable Blacks to separate themselves from

those that were in the lower class (Stemons 1916; Stemons 1943). These men, who were

sometimes called assimilationists, were in an ideological battle with Black nationalists who

encouraged the development of a unique African American style.

Interestingly Marcus Garvey, who was the personification of Black self-consciousness,

Black self help, and Black economic independence, was reportedly fascinated by his wife's long









straight hair. In her memoirs, Garvey's second wife Amy Jacques Garvey who, unlike his first

wife, possessed light skin and long wavy hair, writes,

My hair let down, thrilled him. It was long and naturally wavy, he asked me never to cut it.
The first time he saw it down, curiously he felt some strands and said, 'why it is soft,' as I
tossed my head, he exclaimed, 'Oh, but it is so live' (Garvey 1963:186).

Hence while in public while Garvey was galvanizing people of African descent to feel

racial pride and seek cultural redemption though new definitions of Black beauty, he was

privately thrilled by long naturally wavy straight hair. Garvey's own proclivities indicate that

the battle between straight and nappy hair is both public and extremely private. I would also

argue that in the 21st century many people of African descent still struggle with this internal

conflict over issues of hair.

Historian Leon Litwack wrote about how M.H. Freeman was one of the first African

Americans to assume that emulating White beauty ideals should be seen as pathological when

the result is what Freeman called the, "ludicrous anomaly of Indian hair over Negro features"

(Litwack 1961:182-183). This assumption of pathology and the debate about the value and

meaning of straight or nappy hair stretches from the late nineteenth century to contemporary

times. Among African-descended women in America straight hair is synonymous with being in a

higher social class while nappy hair associates one with a lower or non mainstream social class

(Banks 1997). Moreover the straightening comb became an icon in the quest to establish the

new Black middle class (Douglas 1997).

When straightening hair was first made available to the masses of African American

women, the intent was not to injure our psyches, but to enhance Black women's confidence as

we interacted in a hostile segregated environment (Blackwelder 2003). Women of African

descent in America were interested in crafting an alternative image of Blacks through physical

deportment and good grooming. One of the pioneers in this area was Annie Turnbo Malone









founder of the PORO system and the PORO Beauty College. According to anthropologist

Evelyn Phillips, Malone selected PORO as her company's name because it is a West African

Mende word that originated from a covert mutual aid society (Phillips 2003:4). The word PORO

symbolizes mutual aid, community uplift, spiritual and material growth (Philips 2003:6).

In the late 1800s Malone began researching the development of non-damaging hair

straightening products, hair growers, and conditioners. Malone's interest in hair textures helped

her to develop one of the first straightening combs marketed to women of African descent.

Malone may have developed this product in an effort to resolve the cognitive dissonance

experienced by women of African descent in America. This cognitive dissonance is brought on

by being caught between who we are and how our images are constructed by White racism and

beauty ideals (Philips 2003:9). Eventually Malone trained over 75,000 women at her beauty

colleges. She held conferences to teach her methods to women of African descent in Cuba, the

Bahamas, Mexico, and Haiti, and she is reported to have been worth more than 14 million

dollars. Malone's message of African centered economic empowerment, community outreach,

and personal uplift was carried forward by Sara Breedlove, who later became Madame C.J.

Walker (Bell-Scott 1994; Bundles 2001; Colman 1994; Philips 2003).

Madame C.J. Walker utilized her experience as a saleswoman with the PORO company to

launch her own beauty supply and procedures company. Further testament to the importance of

Black hair is evidenced by Walker's phenomenal economic success. As hair culturist, Walker

and Malone, were among the first American women to become self made millionaires (Bell-

Scott 1994; Bundles 2001; Colman 1994; Philips 2003). Black women had been straightening

their hair with flatirons since the 1820s but Madame C.J. Walker is often erroneously credited

with and simultaneously critiqued for inventing the straightening comb (Bundles 2001; Tyler









1990). She is usually given this title because in 1905 she patented a version of the straightening

comb that she had modified to suit Black hair. However, Walker's prior employer, Annie

Malone, also held a patent on a straightening comb. Researchers now say that Walker's hair oils,

cold curling on pressed hair procedure, and straightening combs were meant to uplift the race

(Bundles 2001; Ottley 1943) by assisting Black women in deifying the stereotypes that racism

had imposed on them (Bundles 2001; Ottley 1943). She offered Black women an opportunity to

shed the negative images of "nappy" hair in favor of "good" hair which opened both economic

and social doors. Walkers' sales and training techniques foreshadowed the marketing strategies

employed by companies like Avon and Mary Kay. Walker gave Black women the first

opportunity they may have ever had to control their financial destinies (Peiss 1998).

The Walker method and the hot comb dominated the Black beauty industry until the 1930s when

Sara Spencer Washington secured the first patent for a long lasting chemical hair straightening

process she called the Apex system. The social and overwhelming economic successes of

Madame CJ Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone are evidence of the power and political economy

of hair in the lives of African-descended women.

As important as hair seems to be among African-descended women, it is difficult to find

social science literature that specifically addresses its culturally specific symbolic meanings. It

seems as if researchers are apprehensive about trying to unlock what I call the "grammar" of

hair, by which I mean the symbolic language transmitted when women in this group view each

others hair. Thus while social scientists vehemently argue that hair is of integral importance

because of its political, public, and inherently personal nature, few studies have investigated how

these political, public or personal meanings are actually articulated. My research investigates









these shortcomings by offering an explanation of the meaning associated with various hairstyles

that can be used to understand the lived experiences and culture of African-descended women.

Literature Review on Black Hair

When psychologists William Grier and Price Cobbs published their book Black Rage

(1968) they argued that the Western world had crafted the Black woman as the antithesis of

beauty. Hair and skin were the fundamental markers that prevented the Black woman from being

seen as ideal beauties. They stated, "her Blackness is the antithesis of a creamy White skin, her

lips are thick, her hair is kinky and short. She is in fact the antithesis of American beauty.

However beautiful she might be in a different setting ... in this country she is ugly" (Grier and

Cobbs 1968:33). Grier and Cobbs also noted that for Black women hair was particularly

important because it was a constant source of pain that mothers inflicted on daughters in hair

combing rituals. They proposed that Black women learned from childhood that hair must be

painfully transformed in order to create an acceptable public image. Grier and Cobbs said that

young girls must think, "If mother has to inflict such pain on me to bring me to the level of

acceptability, then I must have been ugly indeed before the combing" (Grier and Cobbs

1968:35). Furthermore, they theorized that while Caucasian women endure pain for beauty

African American women endure pain just to be presentable on a daily basis. Ultimately, they

argued that, "long, straight hair and a fair skin have seemed to be the requirements for escaping

the misery of being a Black woman" (Grier and Cobbs 1968:37). Grier and Cobbs' theories

represent a major departure from the traditional notion that hair symbolizes genitalia which had

been advanced by other social scientists.

In 400 Years Without a Comb, hair stylist Willie Morrow (1973) provided readers with a

historical overview of Black hair and hairstyles. Morrow argued that hair texture served as a

primary indicator of their link to Africa. Unfortunately, this link was viewed as negative because









it was also a sign of slavery and inferiority. Morrow argued that among Africans in the Diaspora

hair forms that were celebrated in Africa were quickly despised in the New World. Curly and

kinky hair became synonymous with servitude and inferiority. So while hair may still be linked

to gender and sex for women of African descent it has additional meanings that need to be

explored. My work specifically investigates these meanings. I depart from the arguments

produced by Greer and Cobbs in an effort to develop a grounded theory about the meaning of

hair and hairstyles among African-descended women.

In his book Slavery andDeath: A Comparative Study, Orlando Patterson (1982) echoes

Morrow's assertion that hair was more important than skin color during slavery. In fact

Patterson states that, "hair became critical as a mark of servility in the Americas" (Patterson

1982:61). He argues that miscegenation muted the importance of skin color and, "hair type

rapidly became the real symbolic badge of slavery" (Patterson 1982:61). Patterson recounts an

1836 court case where an octoroon2 slave is sentenced to have her head shaved for disrespecting

her mistress. The slave's hair was long and wavy and apparently had the appearance of

Caucasian hair. The slave quickly replaced her missing hair with a wig.

This story could be interpreted to mean that for the octoroon hair was symbolic of her

approximation to Whiteness. Effectively her punishment was to be rendered less White. I think

that this forced haircut seems to be just as traumatic as the symbolic castration theories advanced

by Freud, Leach, and Berg. My analysis of the event is that the enslaved woman's castration was

not of her genitals, but of her social standing as being nearly White. Furthermore, I read this



2 The terms mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon were used predominantly in the 19th and 20th century to describe people
of mixed ancestry with a certain level of mathematical precision in America. The term mulatto indicated that a
person had one Black parent and one White parent. The term quadroon indicated that a person was 1/4th Black,
having only one Black grandparent. The term octoroon was used to indicate that a person had 1/8t Black ancestry,
or that they were descended from one Black great grand parent (See Merriam Webster Dictionary On-Line Edition
2003, Painter 1919: 414).









incident to mean that her hair texture had imbued her with a level of social Whiteness and once it

was removed she also lost her status. With this story Patterson taps into the belief system,

values, and symbols regarding Black hair that I interrogate in my research.

Esi Sagay uses her book African Hairstyles: Styles of Yesterday and Today (1983) to

document the complexity of hairstyles worn on the continent of Africa. Her work primarily

focuses on the ethnomethodological description of various styles. She also discusses the effects

of colonialism and hairstyling practices of modern Africa. For example she argues that African

leaders who were educated in European schools brought back to their countries European

hairstyles that were quickly emulated by the less privileged citizens (Sagay 1983:46). Sagay's

work is particularly interesting because it shows how the ritualized production of hairstyles has

not significantly changed since being transplanted to the New World. I argue that these hair

rituals stem from a combination of social, cultural, and economic practices.

In his article, "Black Hairstyles, Appearance, Conduct and Cultural Democracy," historian

Bruce Tyler (1990) discusses the origin of African American women's beliefs about hair and

hairstyles. Through a content analysis of advertisements targeted at Blacks, comments by

historical figures, legal cases, and magazine articles, Tyler reconstructs the political and

historical background for modern African American hairstyles. Tyler refutes Grier and Cobbs'

argument that women who alter their hair are struggling with self-hatred issues. Instead he

theorized that women might be following European beauty ideals in an effort to secure their

financial status. Once again we see that when social scientists focus on African American

women's hair they open up the potential for alternative theories about hair symbolism.

While Tyler's article explores the social construction of beauty that causes African

Americans to choose particular hairstyles, he fails to investigate whether there is any perceived









correlation between socioeconomic status, educational attainment, politicization, religious

affiliation, personality traits and hairstyle choice. As informative as Tyler's article is, he still

seems to assume that the meaning of hair among African-descended women is clearly defined.

Like Taylor, I question theorists who assert that anytime women of African descent select

European inspired hairstyles they are engaging in acts of self-hatred and internalized racism. My

research goes beyond this simple binary to investigate reasons why women choose either a

natural or straight hairstyle instead of assuming a spurious correlation between their politics and

hairstyle choices.

In the essay, "Black Hair/Style Politics," Kobena Mercer (1992) asks why so much time,

money, and energy is used to produce the art form of hairdressing. I believe that Mercer begins

to answer his own question when he characterizes hairdressing and styles as forms of art.

Following his logic African-descended women would appear to have an affinity for creating

aesthetically pleasing forms. Mercer suggests that Africans Americans should recognize hair as a

raw material that is being processed by culture. Biological determinism and racism have

politicized Black hair by using it as a racial signifier and vesting it with the same negative

connotations that are carried by the race. Mercer's argument gives credence to the development

of theories about hair being synonymous to race for people of African descent.

His assertion that hair is a raw material that is being processed by culture (Mercer

1992:249) points to the following logic: If hair is a raw material processed by culture, and

women in the African Diaspora are practicing the same rituals and producing the same hairstyles,

then is it possible that they are part of the same culture? However, there is the theory of diffusion

that allows for the development of similar cultural forms in different places without cultural

contact that may account for these phenomena.









Thus although Mercer seems to be arguing that hair should be deemphasized among

African-descended people, his work has the opposite effect. Mercer's arguments for

depsychologizing hair and investigating it as a specific cultural practice are central concepts in

my work. Guided by Mercer I view hair as a powerful racial and cultural signifier that is crafted

through ritual practice and community performance. I argue that African-descended people have

instituted a, "textureocracy" for hair that mirrors the "pigmentocracy" utilized to separate Blacks

based on skin color in plantation societies (Mercer 1992:250) Hair texture comes to symbolize

socioeconomic status, educational attainment, political beliefs, religious affiliation, and

personality traits. As such a powerful signifier, hair texture along with hairstyle can also directly

influence an individual's personal and political economy. I follow Mercer's suggestion for

research by actually asking people what they think about the "textureocracy" that has been

imposed by our culture.

Despite the fact that Russell and Wilson acknowledge hair as an issue tantamount to skin

color among African-descended people the book, The Color Complex: the politics of skin color

among African Americans, only spends one out of nine chapters discussing this fact (Russell, et

al. 1998). Russell highlights the significance of hair when writing, "how an African American

chooses to style his or her hair says everything there is to be said about that individual's Black

consciousness, socioeconomic class, and probable life-style, particularly when the individual is a

woman" (Russell, et al. 1998:84). They even assert that, "a certain level of Black consciousness

would seem necessary before a woman dares to go natural" (Russell, et al. 1998:85). However,

these statements are never explored by the book. Without seeking empirical or ethnographic

support Russell's work reifies the argument that wearing straight hair is a sign of mental illness









as articulated in books like Black Rage by Grier and Cobbs (1968) and Black .\kis/\, White Masks

by psychologist Franz Fanon (1967).

In The Color Complex Black women are pathologized and depoliticized based on their

hairstyles. Russell never asks whether there is actually a level of Black consciousness that must

be reached to acquire natural hair. He simply asserts that there is one. Reading this work made

me wonder if some level of Black consciousness is actually required for a woman to wear natural

hair. Moreover, I wondered what happens if a woman reaches that mystical level of Black

consciousness and she does not choose a natural hairstyle? Would her failure to convert to a

natural hairstyle negate her Black consciousness? What if women wearing natural hairstyles

have less Black consciousness? The book merely regurgitates stereotypes without questioning

their validity. Since The Color Complex fails to address these central questions my research

examines these issues because they were identified in the book as pivotal issues among Blacks.

Through my study I hope to understand the symbolic meaning attached to various hairstyles and

textures and answer questions about politics of hair and personal choice.

The personal remains political because this type of personal choice has occasionally been

made in response to what people believe is appropriate for women who are socially conscious.

For example, in her essay "The Making of a Permanent Afro" Gloria Wade Gayles states that,

An activist with straight hair was a contradiction. A lie. A joke never again .. .would I
alter my hair ... In its natural state, my hair would be .. .a symbol of my self-esteem and
racial pride (Wade-Gayles 1993:213).

This type of sentiment was foreshadowed by Alice Walker's address to a group of college

graduates when she explained why she began growing dreadlocks (1988). Yet, Angela Davis

discusses her anger over the fact that young African Americans have reduced the entire Civil

Rights movement into a hairstyle (Davis 1994).









These may seem like strong sentiments but, this level of importance may make sense to

some women like lisa jones who writes, "hair is the be-all and end-all. Everything I know about

American history I learned from looking at Black people's hair... It's all in the hair" (jones

1994:11-12). jones' work Bullet ProofDiva: Tales ofRace, Sex and Hair (1994)

unapologetically focuses on understanding what we do to hair, how we do it, and why. Although

her book does not hold true to its single-minded focus hair remains a salient character throughout

her essays. Her essay "the hair trade" (1994) is particularly valuable because she investigates the

origin of the human hair products that are the foundation for a multitude of African American

women's hairstyling practices. This essay inspired me to research the international hair trade and

analyze its impact on African-descended women. The objectives she set forth in her essay were

directly incorporated into my inquiries about the origins of synthetic and human hair purchased

by women of African descent in America. This essay also encouraged me to examine the work

other social scientists have done on Black beauty products and advertisements.

In her dissertation Hair-Raising: African American Women, Beauty, Culture, and

Madame C.J. Walker, (1994) Noliwe Makada Rooks examined advertisements for hair products

published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. Although she discusses the debates

about hair straightening, and explains the importance of the look and feel of African American

hair, she fails to examine why the look and feel of hair are important issues or how hair and hair

texture function as signifiers among contemporary African-descended women.

One of the most comprehensive collections of empirical data regarding African American

women and hair can be found in Sonja Peterson-Lewis' (1994) essay, "Aesthetic Practices

Among African American Women." Peterson-Lewis historicized the concept of beauty ideals

and tests three propositions for the rationale behind African American hairstyling practices. The









Aesthetic Variation proposition argued that African American women are simply practicing

aesthetics. Her Derision ofAfricanity proposition argued that these practices are an effort to

approximate White beauty ideals. I applied Peterson-Lewis' model of beauty ideals as an

aesthetics scale to create my hair survey. I use my hair survey to elicit data from a large pool of

women who are connected to the Internet.

Hair for African American women is so important that in Aloina Gibson's book Nappy:

Growing Up Black andFemale in America (1995) it actually appears to be a real character in her

memoir. Her hair memories are as strong as the memories she has about real people. Gibson's

narration confirms my findings that hair is of primary concern to African American women, and

maybe even more important than the issues of body image and weight. Gibson's work and the

Hair Stories performance by the Urban Bush Women encouraged me to collect hair stories for

narrative analysis.

All of the works I have discussed so far could be summarized in Ingrid Banks book, Hair

Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women's Consciousness (2000). Based on the findings

derived from five focus groups and forty-three interviews Banks is able to link hair to broader

social and cultural values for Black women. Further, her ethnographic approach demonstrates

how Black women can explain in their own words why hair matters for them individually and

socially. Banks confirms the persistence in the Black community of strong beliefs about the

existence of "good" and "bad" hair textures. This is despite the positive influence of the 1960s

"Black is beautiful" movement that emphasized self esteem during that time and today has

introduced the wearing of natural hairstyles among the proponents of Afrocentric cultural values.

Her findings reveal that Black women who wear natural styles are more likely to agree with

assertions that straightening hair is a form of self hatred, though women with straight hairstyles









are less likely to agree. Banks' study is one of the most sophisticated qualitative inquiries into

the importance of hair among Black women. My work builds on Banks' investigation by

combining interviews and participant observation with survey data. I further extend these studies

by investigating the material culture and production of various styles and interrogating the shared

meaning of these styles. Whereas Banks' interviews delve into the individuals' psyche regarding

hair, my research is about the collective knowledge held by women of African descent. For these

women hairstyle choice serves as a personal symbol which can be read publicly if you know the

symbolic grammar of the particular culture (Firth 1973b; Leach 1958; Obeyesekere 1990). Hair

ultimately is a symbol of racial identification, political affiliation, sexual orientation, religious

affiliation, and socioeconomic status.

Another important contribution is the work of Obiagele Lake who goes beyond Russell and

Banks by combining the issues of skin color and hair texture. In Blue Veins andKinky Hair:

Naming and Color Consciousness in African America (2003), Lake highlights the importance of

naming (nomo), skin color, and hair among African-descended people in the Americas. She

recognizes these three areas as key factors in identity production among Blacks. Her most

significant contribution is the historicizing of the intra-racial policies of elitism, segregation, and

pigmentocracy practiced by Blacks in North America. Lake argues that just because scientists

have determined that race is not a biological reality does not mean that the concept has lost its

social power. She points out how race has retained its' social power through the overt

devaluation of African culture and beauty ideals in Western culture. Lake's work echoes the

scholarship of Carter G. Woodson (1933) who theorized that internalized and intra-group racism

among Blacks should be viewed as more threatening than the overt racism initiated by Whites.

For example, Lake discusses how a group of Blacks with lighter skin split from the African









Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870 in order to form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.

She also documents how intra-racial segregation became the primary goal of Black social groups

like the Blue Vein Society and the Brown Fellowship Society, which created strict membership

guidelines to exclude people based on skin color and hair texture. Lake's work is an excellent

historical explanation for the contemporary beliefs associated with the value of hair and hair

texture among Blacks.

The final work of significance in this emerging field of Black women's hair is that of

historian Elizabeth Johnson. She recognizes the need for feminism and semiotics to be used in

the investigation of, African American Women's Hair as Text (Johnson 2004). Johnson

reviewed photographs, enslavement narratives, runaway enslavement notices, and conducted a

content analysis of magazine articles to understand the symbolic meaning of women's hairstyles.

My own ethnography research follows Johnson's methodology as I explore the lived experiences

of contemporary women. My research departs from Johnson's historical investigation of Black

women's hair, and focuses on discovering the current boundaries of Black hair culture. While

Johnson reviewed the historical significance of hair as text, my goal is to reveal the

contemporary grammar of hair and read it as text.

In this chapter I have reviewed the cultural construction of the body, the anthropological

literature on hair symbolism, why hair matters to African American women, the socio-political

history of Black hair and conducted a literature review on Black hair. In the next chapter I will

discuss the methods and methodology I used in my investigation of hair among women of

African descent.









CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY AND METHODS

.. we "natives" cannot maintain hypothetical neutrality in the field. Even if we are not
indigenous to the specific ethnic community, shared histories, and differential relations to
power as well as a personal identity that may fluctuate between incorporation into and
resistance away from the dominant cultural hegemony creates a set of issues which must be
confronted early on (McClaurin 1990).

Hair matters to us because you can change you whole image just by changing your
hairstyle. For example you can be looking' like a stockbroker with a real straight perm one
minute and turn into a Ghetto hoochie with a waterfall weave after an afternoon in
someone's chair -[Cosette Walker Interview with author February 8, 2005]

How long you been growing your hair?-[A question asked of me by 164 different women
from 8/1/04-4/01/06 concerning my dreadlocks]

Methodology

This chapter begins with an explanation of the rationale and theoretical assumptions that

guided my research and thus influenced the methods I selected to collect my data. I believe that

understanding my epistemological views and methodology is important for any researcher who

might wish to replicate the study. After a description of the methodology, I review the settings,

the sampling techniques I used, the characteristics of the sample, and finally the various methods

I employed during my data collection.

The statements that open this chapter highlight the complex nature of two issues:

conducting research as a native anthropologist and studying hair as a cultural domain. This

qualitative research project emanates from my positionality as a native researcher combined with

my interest in Black feminism, the African Diaspora, and symbolic anthropology. In order to

interrogate the shared meaning of hair and hairstyles as it relates to the existence of a cultural

domain; I use Black feminism to substantiate my inquiry into women's lives. Then I rely on the

conceptual framework of the African Diaspora to interrogate ideas about group identity. Finally,

I use symbolic anthropology to guide my analysis of the symbolic meanings I encounter, and my









status as a perceived insider as an entryway into an intimate belief system that has not yet been

fully investigated by scholars. I will discuss my use of each of these concepts briefly and then

move on to discuss the methods I utilized for data collection in this project. As mentioned

previously this research began with two research questions:

Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent associate with their
hair texture and hairstyle choice?

If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among
women of African descent?

To answer these questions, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork, a form of qualitative research

that traditionally involves varying degrees of qualitative and quantitative description of groups or

phenomena (Handwerker 2001). Denzin and Lincoln offer the following description:

Qualitative research is multimethod in focus...this means that qualitative researchers study
things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret phenomena in
terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studied use
and collection of a variety of empirical materials--case study, personal experience,
introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactions, and visual texts--
the described routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals' lives (Denzin
and Lincoln 1994:2).

Ethnography, then, involves the construction of a holistic picture through the analysis of the

various types of data described by Denzin and Lincoln above (Creswell 1998; Denzin and

Lincoln 1994). My methodology included interviews, participant observation, digital

storytelling, and the collection of visual materials such as ethnographic film and photographs.

Since my focus was on the body and more specifically hair, this research was primarily based on

the use of ethnographic photography and film. This methodology emanates from the field of

visual anthropology (Collier 1967). William Wood writes that:

Visual Anthropology complements other methods of imaging and recording and, therefore, cuts
across the entire field of anthropology. It provides methodologies particularly suited to the study
of material things, whether materials of the habitat, artifacts of the culture, or postures of the
human body, and these can be shown in process of movement, pattern transformation, or
interaction. The physical expression of feeling and emotion can be recorded, and the dynamics of









interpersonal and group interactions can be studied to yield data unavailable through any other
methodology. Visual methods then are particularly suited to demonstrating certain relationships
between material and non-material and among the various aspects of cultural systems and of
cultural-ecological systems (Wood 1989:30).

So the methodology of visual anthropology added to my project by allowing me to study the

material presentation of hair. As Wood discusses my use of ethnographic film gave me access to

feelings and emotional responses to hair and hairstyles that would have been unavailable without

this method.

This is also a multi-sited project based on interviews and participant observation and data

collected through the less conventional virtual ethnographic filed site on my computer, which led

me to explore the "electronic, mass-mediated community of those involved in discussions"

(Constable 2003:3), about Black hair. According to Bruce Mason a "virtual ethnography is

simply an ethnography that treats cyberspace as the ethnographic reality" (1996:4). Virtual

ethnographies can involve techniques such as the monitoring of online chat rooms, blogs, online

interactive interviews, focus groups, email interactions, or online surveys (Constable 2003;

Crichton and Kinash 2003; Hine 1998).

Utilizing a multi-sited research design involves gleaning information from several different

research settings. Marcus describes multi-sited ethnography as a research design best suited to

exploring the "circulation of cultural meanings, objects, and identities in diffuse time-space"

(Marcus 1995:79). Marcus outlined multi-sited ethnographic practices that, "would allow

researchers to investigate people, things, metaphors, plots, stories or allegories, lives, and

conflicts for new and better understanding" (Gille and Riain 2002; Marcus 1995:99; Marcus

1998). Following Marcus, I crafted my investigation to include participant observation of

women in beauty shops, the collection of material culture used by these women, the

documentation of stories or folklore they have about hair, and an investigation of the virtual









community organized around the topic of African-descended women's hair. I selected this

multimethod, multi-sited ethnographic research design in an effort to create a holistic picture of

African-descended women's lived experiences and elicit the symbolic meanings associated with

their hair and hairstyle choice.

Another aspect of my methodology involved operationalizing the African Diaspora as a

conceptual framework consisting of history, experience, and a common ancestral origin. Within

this framework, identity is constantly producing and reproducing itself anew, through

transformation and difference (Cohen 1997; Diop 1974; Gilroy 1991; Luke 2001; Palmer 2000;

Simms-Hamilton 1990). Consequently instead of grouping my participants by my perception of

their geographical, national, or political affiliations, I asked them to self identify as members of

the group I called African-descended women. Subsequently, my research site is defined by each

individual's self definition as a woman of African descent. So although I generally frame my

work in terms of women of African descent in the United States, I actually had research

participants from all over the world. It is this global level of participation that encouraged me to

classify the women as being of African descent. I needed this general non-geographically

specific term because some of my participants were still physically located in Africa. But, these

women in Africa, the South Pacific, and Europe saw themselves as being connected to women of

African descent in Diasporic communities throughout the world. Thus, I view the participants in

the study as women of African descent, who are not bounded by nationality, political affiliations,

or geography. They represent Africa, North America, Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, the South

Pacific, and South America.

This flexible definition of my research group also allowed me to investigate my research

questions from an emic perspective, because I define myself as a member of this group.









Essentially, I am what Cheryl Rodriguez calls a homegirll studying homegirls" or a native

anthropologist (Haniff 1985; Hastrup 1987; Hastrup 1993; Jones 1988; Nakhleh 1979; Narayan

1993; Rodriguez 2001). Crafting an identity as a native anthropologist is tricky when you are a

member of a profession where the hallmark method is to seek the native point of view, but

natives are not considered valid researchers (Harris 1999; Hastrup 1987; Kondo 1990; Schneider

1991). Native researchers face assumptions that they are inherently biased, have easy access to

the research site, and are immune to culture shock. In reality native researchers are often

perceived as outsiders by members of their own communities. Educational level, socioeconomic

background, and life experiences make the native a cultural outsider (Narayan 1993). So

although I may be perceived as a native by other anthropologists, I still faced some of the same

the challenges encountered in the field by non native anthropologists. Even natives are forced to

prove themselves and craft identities as legitimate insiders.

Natives are also faced with more complex ethical issues, because their informants may

include friends, relatives, and community familiars (Hastrup 1987). The native may have more

responsibilities to the research participants during and after the research project (McClaurin

1996). My method for addressing these problems involved systematic reflection on how my

personal experiences shaped my study and acknowledgment of my biases, values, and interests.

Furthermore, to ensure my participants are protected, I completed the University of Florida

Institutional Review Board procedures for research on human subjects1. Moreover, I only viewed


11 The formal portion of this research began in October of 2004 with my submission of an Institutional Review
Board Application at the University of Florida. Unfortunately, due to the unfamiliarity with my topic my proposal
was submitted to two different reviewers before finally being sent to the chair of the department. The reviewers cited
their primary concern as being that my research would be offensive to African American women. After numerous
calls to the office I informed the administrator that I was an African American woman and she admitted that she was
also. At this point she told me that she did not understand what the delay had been with my approval because she
had taken my survey for fun and passed it on to one of her girlfriends. She informed me that she would talk to the
director and give him this information. I can only assume that the information included my race and within hours I
was notified that I had been conditionally approved. The final condition was that I change three words in the









myself as an "assumed" native because my hairstyle choice of dreadlocks and decision not to

have them maintained professionally decreases my level of interaction in much of the shared

beauty shop ritual associated with this culture.

Another framework that I employed in the study was that of Black feminist anthropology.

In defining myself as a Black feminist anthropologist, I assume the lived experiences of Black

women to be valid sources for epistemological inquiry, whose experiences yield data and who

engage in the active production of theory (McClaurin 2001). Using Black feminist anthropology

my research questions presumed that gender and race are the basic organizing principles that

shape the lives of women of African descent. My aim was to highlight the marginalized,

distorted and often invisible experience of women of African descent (Lather 1991; McClaurin

2001). Given the marginality of the participants my data collection procedures were designed to

unmute their voices and bring their experiences out of the shadows. This was accomplished

through the use of interactive dialogic interviews digital storytelling, ethnographic photography

and film, and focus groups that required self-disclosure to foster a sense of collaboration

(Creswell 1998).

My standpoint as a Black feminist, studying women of African descent, enriches my

ability to interpret and analyze the lived experiences of Black women in the Diaspora. By

documenting the existence of a cultural domain of hair for women of African descent in African

and in the African Diaspora, my ethnography will assist future scholars in analyzing the

complexities of identity formations in the African Diaspora. The stories and folklore I have


photograph release form. I was instructed to change the words, "waive my right" to "I understand that I will not be
compensated." With this change I was granted approval from the Institutional review board. This experience is
interesting because up until the point that I made my race a factor in the review process my application was delayed.
One could infer that the reviewers assumed that I was a non-Black and that they were concerned about letting a non-
native into the personal space of African American women. But, upon learning that I was an authentic African
American, or a native, I was granted access to the group. Approval of protocol number 2004-U-784









collected so far reflect values and beliefs that are socially acquired and patterned to serve women

of African descent as guides for behavior. Ultimately, I question whether these stories and

folklore serve as evidence of a shared culture among women of African descent worldwide

(Mintz and Richard 1992). However, in order to fully answer this question I rely on symbolic

anthropology to analyze the beliefs and rituals associated with hair.

The major focus of symbolic anthropology is on how members of cultural groups perceive,

experience, create, modify, and interpret rituals and other public performances in their

surroundings (Carrithers 1992; Deely 1990; Dolgin, et al. 1977; Shore 1996; Turner and Bruner

1986). Symbolic anthropology is a field that utilizes theories and methods for deconstructing

the outward appearance of rituals and public acts (Braarvig and Krogh 1997; Ridington 1979).

As a symbolic anthropologist I am interested in deconstructing the rituals and public acts

surrounding Black hair. Symbolic anthropology is an approach that assumes, "the whole of

human experience, without exception, is an interpretive structure mediated and sustained by

signs" (Deely 1990:5). Symbolic anthropologists also believe that culture is a multidimensional

system of symbols and meanings shared by a group of people (Deely 1990; Dolgin, et al. 1977).

Raymond Firth, a twentieth century anthropologist, developed a methodology on how to extract

meaning from a group's complex system of meanings. According to Firth, symbolic

anthropology should include the following objectives:

description and analysis of symbolic acts,

evaluation of the importance of those acts,

elucidation of the meanings informants attribute to those acts, and

the creation of a conceptual framework that relates how these acts function in a

particular culture (Firth 1973b).









I have incorporated Firth's objectives into my research methodology and subsequently my

methods.

Janet Dolgin builds upon Firth's work and asserts that there are two key principles

governing symbolic anthropology. The first principle is that the only way to understand beliefs

is to examine them within the cultural system from which they emanate (Des Chene 1996;

Dolgin, et al. 1977). The second key principle is that people act based on their interpretations,

and that symbolism assists people in making their interpretations (Des Chene 1996). Thus,

symbolism is extremely important because it directly influences individual action (Dolgin, et al.

1977; Firth 1973b; Joshi 1992; Napier 1996; Ridington 1979). Grounded by Firth's objectives as

a research framework and Dolgin's principles of symbolic anthropology, I selected my

ethnographic methods that are described below.

Methods

The key questions I focused on during my data collection were:

Are there shared symbolic meanings that women of African descent associate with their
hair texture and hairstyle choice?

If shared meanings exist, do they form the basis of a cultural belief domain among
women of African descent?

Utilizing Firth's model encouraged me to investigate hair culture in three different settings.

My first level of inquiry was descriptive. This in turn led to my inquiry into the meaning and

importance of these acts to my research participants. Finally after gathering the descriptions,

seeking their meanings, and evaluating the importance of the acts, I began to formulate a

conceptual framework for analyzing data that could document the existence of a cultural domain

of hair among African-descended women (Firth 1973b). I will discuss each setting and method in

detail below but the research design flowchart (see Figure 3-1) provides an overview of the

work.









Research Settings

Researcher as the Instrument and Initial Setting

As a woman of African descent, this research was undoubtedly influenced by the public

display of my own hair (see Figure 3-2). I wear my hair in long dreadlocks that extend past my

hips. I grappled with the notion that I should cut or cover my natural hair to avoid initially giving

my participants the impression that I harbor biases either for or against their particular hairstyles.

I was extremely concerned that women would assume that my true hypothesis involves proving

that women who wear chemically relaxed hair are not socially conscious. To correct this

perceived obstacle in the research I investigated the economic and logistic feasibility of hair

weaving techniques that would cover my dreadlocks. Since none of the beauticians I approached

were able to offer a solution, I eventually purchased a long relaxed style wig that amazingly

covered all of my hair (see Figure 3-3). I planned to don this wig during my official fieldwork

outings. However, I had a difficult time separating my fieldwork time from my everyday lived

experiences. My fieldwork spilled over into the checkout lanes at Wal-Mart, the produce areas in

grocery stores, and the dressing rooms in clothing stores. Because I wear my hair in light brown

dreadlocks that are approximately 43 inches long, many of my participants initiated contact with

me (see Figure 3-2). Invariably women of African descent begin conversations with me by

asking, "How long did it take for you to grow your hair" or "Is that really all yo' hair?" I usually

think to myself, "I have been growing hair all my life, haven't you?"

Truthfully in the past I considered these types of questions intrusive and rude. I always

wondered why other women of African descent insist on characterizing my hair, as if it were a

plant I had purchased and specially cultivated to grow to this length. Consequently in the past

few years, I have concocted a litany of evasive and occasionally rude answers as responses to

these frequent inquiries. I always feel as if people were asking me how long it took for my hair to









gain its current length because of their fascination with long hair and their belief that "real"

women of African descent are somehow genetically precluded from growing long hair. This

belief inherently implies that my hair must be artificial or that I am not authentically Black.

Over the years I have had numerous women and men, who were perfect strangers, accuse me of

having artificial hair because of its length. No matter what I might say to reassure them or how

much they manipulate my hair and squint at my scalp and carefully examine each individual

lock, many people leave our encounters unconvinced that my hair is authentic and indeed

natural. Despite the fact that I have proudly worn artificial hair in the past, I found myself

profoundly offended by the thought of being labeled as a wearer of an inauthentic natural

hairstyle.

Reflecting on the significance I obviously place on having "authentic" long hair helped me

to recognize the role my hair could play in the research. I discarded my coy and negative

responses along with my fifty dollar wig and began to utilize my lived experiences as a point of

entry into the research field. I developed a business card to give women my contact information

and direct them to my web based surveys and experiments (see Figure 3-4). I also diligently

collected phone numbers and contact information from women who inquired about the

authenticity of my hair. I began utilizing my palm pilot telephone to log these inquires and

collect data from my lived experience as fieldwork. From August 1, 2004 to April 1, 2006 164

women approached me in public and asked me "how long I had been growing my hair," twelve

of these women agreed to videotaped interviews with me, twenty of them participated in my

focus groups, and countless others completed my online survey and online experiments.

Ultimately, I was able to utilize my physical appearance as an essential component in my

research because it allowed my body to serve as my initial research setting. In this setting, my









sample selection was opportunistic but I was able to make contact with participants who directed

me toward my next setting, the beauty shop.

Second Setting: The Beauty Shop

My formal research began with my identifying several local beauty shops where I could

conduct participant observation. I selected beauty shops as a setting because some of the

symbolism associated with hair texture and styles is still transmitted within the cultural space of

beauty shops. Therefore, it made sense for me to recruit women who are actively participating in

this cultural space because just being in this space implies that they have the cultural expertise

that would aid my study. I decided to focus on three shops in the Columbia, South Carolina area.

I selected the shops based on the most frequent recommendations I received from the women in

my first setting.

The first shop specialized in natural hair care. Although this shop specialized in natural

hair care, they do not exclude women with other styles. This shop has business from clients with

natural, relaxed, and weaved hairstyles. The second shop specializes in braids and what could be

characterized as more artistic hairstyles. They had a very small clientele of women who wore

their hair in natural styles. The third shop does not specialize in particular hairstyles but I

considered it a different type of shop because of the large number of services available such as

massages, aromatherapy, manicures, and pedicures. This shop also had a more economically

affluent client base. As a worker in these shops I was privy to the conversations conducted

between the hair stylists and the conversations held among the clients, their stylists, and other

women in the shops.

Third Setting: The Virtual World

A critical component of my research involved the use of the Internet as a research setting.

During the past twenty years the Internet has developed into an international infrastructure where









people can collaborate and interact without regard for geographic location (Leiner, et al. 2003).

This medium has broadened the concept of community and even muddled ideas about identity as

people delve into alternate egos and personas online (Butler 1993; Haraway and Randolph 1997;

Miller and Slater 2000). The Internet is a nascent and evolving virtual geography with its own

language, protocols, and societies (Butler 1993; Crang, et al. 1999; Haraway and Randolph 1997;

Miller and Slater 2000). As a means of interaction the Internet provides people from all over the

globe with alternative modes of representation and within this virtual geography there are a

multitude of societies and cultures (Crang, et al. 1999; Dibbell 1994; Jordan 1999). Virtual

societies have begun to mirror real geographically fixed societies in their levels of complexity

(Gille and Riain 2002; Hume and Mulcock 2004). The investigation of these societies is similar

to traditional ethnographic inquiry because, as Jordan states, "virtual societies are marked by

political, technological and cultural patterns so intimately connected as to be nearly

indistinguishable" from the real world (Jordan 1999:2). Researchers are recognizing that virtual

communities are far from the 'imagined' or pseudo communities explicated by C. Calhoun in is

essay "Indirect Relationships and Imagined Communities: Large-Scale Social Integration and the

Transformation of Everyday Life" (1991). In fact, social scientists acknowledge that these

communities are real in the way that they reflect the changing nature of human relations and

interaction (Thomsen, et al. 1998). Eventually, these changes are going to result in a shift in

ethnographic perspective for anthropological research (Gille and Riain 2002). My online

research and perception of the virtual world as a valid site of inquiry are examples of this gradual

but inevitable change.

My work targeted women of African descent who have organized themselves into groups

around the concept of hair and beauty treatments. To locate these communities I used a search









engine called Google, www.google.com, which is currently the largest database of Web pages

and other documents (Barker 2006). Google allows the use of Boolean logic searches to retrieve

Web pages that have been ranked by computer algorithms for relevance to my keywords.

However, the Google database only contains links to about half of all of the Web pages in

existence (Barker 2006) I also relied on a meta search engine called Kartoo, www.kartoo.com.

Meta search engines draw information from multiple search engine databases and then compile

the information. Kartoo's specialty lies in the program's ability to categorize the users search

results into relevant concepts and sites and display these results on a graphical map. Combining

these two types of search engines allowed me to more fully explore the virtual communities of

women of African descent.

Sample Selections and Descriptions

All of the samples in my research were generated by some form of purposeful sampling.

Purposeful sampling is the general name of a set of non-random sampling techniques that allow

the researcher to focus on information rich cases and sample size where the qualities are

determined by the needs of the research (Patton 1990). There are approximately sixteen sub-

types of purposeful sampling and in my work I made use of four of these techniques:

opportunistic sampling, snowball sampling, criterion sampling, and maximum variation sampling

(Creswell 1998; Denzin and Lincoln 1994; Johnson 1998; Patton 1990).

Opportunistic sampling is a technique where the researcher is encouraged to follow leads

in fieldwork and pursue flexible paths that lead to data collection (Patton 1990). My sample

selections in my personal setting and the beauty shop setting were opportunistic. In the initial

setting where I was the research instrument, I allowed women to approach me and then I took the

opportunity to invite them to participate in my research. I also asked them to recommend beauty

shops and then I simply selected the three shops that were mentioned most often. Describing my









participants at this point in my research is difficult. During this phase of my work I did not

formally collect demographic data from the women who approached me. However, I can say that

of the 164 women whom I documented after approaching me, 160 of them appeared to be of

African descent. I did not ask the women how they perceived themselves so I can only give my

observation of their group affiliation based on skin color, hair texture, and their knowledge of

Black culture.

When I began my participant observation, I employed snowball sampling and maximum

variation to identify focus group and free list exercise participants. Snowball sampling is a

technique that involves identifying participants in the culture who can then refer you to other

reliable experts and participants (Patton 1990; Schensul, et al. 1999). This form of sampling is

particularly useful when you are attempting to retrieve data from populations that are difficult to

define or locate. Maximum variation sampling involves the intentional selection of a wide range

of variation based on predefined dimensions of interest (Maykut and Morehouse 1994). I used

the hairstyles identified by my participants as the way to define my sample group. Hence I

sought women to represent each of the eight main hairstyles.

I structured my participant observation by asking women to play free listing games with

me while they waited for their hair stylist. Free listing is a data elicitation technique that

involves asking informants to make lists that represent their indigenous cultural knowledge

(Schensul, et al. 1999). Collecting free list data is one of the basic starting points in defining a

cultural domain (Bernard 1998; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003; Johnson 1998; Weller 1998). Free

listing allowed me to glean definitions about hairstyles and textures from women in an effort to

answer my first research question which interrogates the symbols, origin, and boundaries that

constitute the symbolic meanings for hair in the African Diaspora. I recruited ten women from









each shop to engage in these free listing exercises via maximum variation sampling based on

their own hairstyles. Thirty women were asked to provide me with a list of the different

categories of hairstyles in one exercise and a list of the different hair textures in another exercise.

These thirty women also appeared to be African-descended. However, I did not formally

investigate their demographic details. This free listing technique helped me to craft my online

survey and begin to answer my second research question of whether or not the symbolic

meanings are evidence of a cultural belief domain. The free listing exercise also helped me create

my interview and focus group instruments by determining which hairstyles I should discuss and

how I should approach the concept of different hair textures.

Eventually, I returned to the beauty shops and requested that thirty women complete pile

sorting exercises of the photographs I used in the online experiment. Pile sorting is an elicitation

technique that elicits judgments of similarity among items in a cultural domain and the attributes

that distinguish between the items (Bernard 1998; Borgatti 1996; Furlow 2003). Subsequently

for my research the beauty shops served as a recruitment tool for cultural experts.

In order to collect data online I employed criterion sampling for my survey and survey

experiment instruments. Criterion sampling involves selecting cases or participants that meet

specific predefined parameters (Patton 1990). Focusing on women of African descent allowed

me to utilize this group affiliation as the organizing parameter for my sample. In the personal

setting that I described above this translated into a situation where I invited women of African

descent who approached me in public, with questions or compliments about my hair, to

participate in my online survey. I created a business card that I would hand the women and a

personal website that would direct them to the online survey suite (see Figure 3-4).









In the online setting I targeted one main group of African-descended women and I sent an

email invitation to the members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Alpha Kappa Alpha

Sorority, Inc, founded in 1908 on the Howard University campus, is the oldest Greek letter

organization founded for and by women of African descent. Currently, this organization boasts

over 185,000 college trained members in the United States and abroad (Alpha Kappa Alpha

Sorority 2004). In this organization, 63 percent of the women report having at least a Bachelors

degree; 57 percent have a Masters degree, 9 percent have a Doctorate; and 7 percent hold

professional degrees or certifications (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority 2004). The sorority is

organized into ten major regions and I specifically targeted the largest South Atlantic Region,

which encompasses South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I sent an email invitation to the

director of the South Atlantic Region and requested that she forward my online survey

information to the 103 graduate chapters and 53 undergraduate chapters under her control. I

cannot gauge how many of the 156 chapters actually received this request. However, my request

was probably facilitated by the fact that I have been a member of this organization for 18 years,

my mother has been a member for thirty four years and my grandmother has been a member for

over sixty years. Responses to my online survey were collected anonymously however, this was

the first group I invited to participate in the survey entitled "Black hair is ." that was deployed

on March 9, 2005 and by March 31, 2005 I had 76 responses.

The second wave of criterion second sampling I used for my online work involved

targeting web pages that encourage online Weblogs or blogs and chats about women of African

descent and hair. Blogs are websites where entries are made in a journal type interface that may

include photographs, links to other web pages, and text. All of this information is displayed in

reverse chronological order so that the most recent information is displayed first (Doostdar 2004;