Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Owusu-Kwarteng, L.
‘Whoever holds the scissors wields the power’: An auto/biographical reflection on my ‘Hairstory’ (2020) Women’s Studies International Forum, 82, art. no. 102405

DOI: 10.1016/j.wsif.2020.102405

This paper provides an auto/biographical account of my hair journey, with specific emphasis on my hairstyle changes, and their ‘inextricable links’ to my identity and self-presentation (Bankhead and Johnson, 2014) at different stages in my life. In doing so, reference is made to the work of Anthony Giddens (1991) Erving Goffman (1950) and Judith Butler (1990). In addition, I discuss how for Black women, ‘hair’ is also a continual source of political debates. These centre on whether particular styles (e.g relaxing (chemical straightening), and/or weave), mean we present ourselves in ways reflecting European (often hegemonic) beauty standards, rooted in longstanding negative representations of ‘tightly curled’ African hair. Conversely, are growing numbers of Black women (including me) who opt for ‘natural’ hair, choosing to present ourselves in ways which consciously reject hegemonic standards of beauty? Or are these hairstyles simply a matter of choice and/or convenience? Drawing on the work of Black Feminist researchers Teihasha Bankhead, Tabora Johnson (2014), and Cheryl Johnson (2009), I describe ‘brushes’ with these issues in Black hair salons, which impacted on my experiences in this context. Other issues, such as extraordinary lengths of time spent waiting to be seen are discussed, alongside power relationships existing between the hairstylist/salon owners and the clients, arising from these situations. In doing so Foucault’s notions of power (1984) and Freund et al’s discussion of time and power (2003) are referred to. © 2020 Elsevier Ltd

Index Keywords
biography, feminism, hair, political power, power relations, womens status; Europe

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