Don’t Touch My Hair

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2018-10-07 23:49Z by Steven

Don’t Touch My HairDon’t Touch My Hair

Allen Lane (an imprint of Penguin)
2019-02-05
240 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9780241308349
Ebook ISBN: 9780141986296

Emma Dabiri, Teaching Fellow SOAS; Visual Sociology Ph.D. Researcher, Goldsmiths

Despite our more liberal world views, black hair continues to be erased, appropriated and stigmatised to the point of taboo. Why is that?

Recent years have seen the conversation around black hair reach tipping point, yet detractors still proclaim ‘it’s only hair!’ when it never is. This book seeks to re-establish the cultural significance of African hairstyles, using them as a blueprint for decolonisation. Over a series of wry, informed essays, the author takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and into today’s Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars and beyond. We look at the trajectory from hair capitalists like Madam CJ Walker in the early 1900s to the rise of Shea Moisture today, touching on everything from women’s solidarity and friendship, to forgotten African scholars, to the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian’s braids.

The scope of black hairstyling ranges from pop culture to cosmology, from prehistoric times to the (afro)futuristic. Uncovering sophisticated indigenous mathematical systems – the bedrock of modern computing – in black hair styles, alongside styles that served as secret intelligence networks leading enslaved Africans to freedom, Don’t Touch My Hair proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.

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Emma Dabiri: The Diaspora Diva on trolls, modelling and growing up black in Dublin

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-08-14 00:20Z by Steven

Emma Dabiri: The Diaspora Diva on trolls, modelling and growing up black in Dublin

Sunday Independent
2018-08-14

Donal Lynch

Emma Dabiri, author, TV presenter, model is very much at home in London but she's an Irish girl at heart. Photo: Jonathan Goldberg
Emma Dabiri, author, TV presenter, model is very much at home in London but she’s an Irish girl at heart. Photo: Jonathan Goldberg

With her BBC series about to air, academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri spoke to Donal Lynch

It’s a sweltering afternoon and on a quiet London side street, outside an impossibly chic bakery (it’s where Meghan and Harry had their wedding cake made), academic, author and former-model Emma Dabiri is taking a well-earned break from working on the final manuscript for her forthcoming book: Don’t Touch My Hair.

Before we meet I half considered this a slightly redundant admonition for polite society – why would anyone, bar someone with latent Harvey Weinstein tendencies, touch a woman’s hair unbidden? – but, in person, you can see where the temptation might arise. In this most genteel of settings, Emma’s hair is an event, a happening, a lustrously-beautiful nimbus that frames her fine features. Curiosity and generations of cultural racism seem to spur the urge to pet it, stroke it. I heroically resist, but others are not so strong.

“A few weeks ago a woman reached out to touch my hair on the tube and as she put out her hand she said ‘wait… you don’t like that, do you?’ It was as though some dim memory of editorials she’d read somewhere, came bursting through; she remembered and held herself back a bit.”

Growing up in Dublin, it happened all the time. It was constant. Often kids would just say “oh my God, look at her hair, it’s mad” and come right over and have a feel and a chat”, she recalls. “It felt strange and objectifying. I found it strange because I wouldn’t even touch someone’s dog without asking them. I never questioned all of the treatments (that are used to ‘relax’ black hair) but they weren’t always available to me because it’s difficult to get those products in Ireland. My mum would work in Liverpool or Manchester, and there you could get a curly perm, which is sort of like defined curls, rather than afro hair…

…As for whether she feels ‘more’ Irish or Nigerian, “people often ask me that. To me, it’s not a relevant question. First of all, I was born and raised in Ireland, but really I don’t feel I have to choose. I identify as both black and Irish, it may be unusual – although happily increasingly less so – but the two are not mutually exclusive!…

Read the entire article here.

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Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-04-26 02:40Z by Steven

What is it about black girls that you find so attractive? We come in all different shades and sizes. Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?

Emma Dabiri, “Emma: On What It Means to Be “Attracted to Black Girls”,” Dublin InQuirer, April 24, 2018. https://www.dublininquirer.com/2018/04/24/emma-on-what-it-means-to-be-attracted-to-black-girls.

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Emma: On What It Means to Be “Attracted to Black Girls”

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Social Work on 2018-04-25 22:22Z by Steven

Emma: On What It Means to Be “Attracted to Black Girls”

Ask Emma: Navigating race and identity in Ireland
Dublin InQuirer
Dublin, Ireland
2018-04-24

Emma Dabiri


Image by Rob Mirolo

In her regular column, Emma Dabiri fields your questions on race and identity in contemporary Ireland. Got something you’ve been pondering? You can send her your questions through this form.

Hi Emma,

I’m a white male Dubliner who is very attracted to black girls. I’ve never been with a black girl, and don’t actually know any black women at all to be honest, but whenever I see a pretty black girl on the street or in the office, I melt.

I’m trying not to sound too weird. I know it’s not good to exoticize. I do watch lots of black porn. I have had no chill on the few opportunities I’ve had to speak to black girls. I feel like flirting is hard enough, but with race, identity, etc. it all becomes overwhelming.

What should I do?

We deliberated quite a lot as to whether or not this was a serious question or the work of a troll. However, as a black woman who grew up on the receiving end of attitudes such as yours, I am pretty convinced of its veracity.

The ideas about what blackness is that inform your “preferences” are centuries old, and sadly are not going away anytime soon. What I write should help you, although I have to admit that in this instance helping you is not my main priority.

Rather, I want to take this opportunity to expose the mechanics behind this way of thinking, and the ways in which these attitudes are damaging and dehumanizing to black people.

What is it about black girls that you find so attractive? We come in all different shades and sizes. Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?…

Read the entire article here.

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“Race, It Would Appear, Complicates Things”: An Irish Immigration Story

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-12 22:14Z by Steven

“Race, It Would Appear, Complicates Things”: An Irish Immigration Story

Away
Travel Journal
2018-01-23

Emma Dabiri


Emma Dabiri is Irish, but when the inevitable “Where do you come from?” is asked, the answer rarely satisfies the inquisitor. Photo by @thediasporadiva.

In this series, we’re highlighting the stories of people who remain connected to their home countries—either those with immigrant parents or those who are immigrants themselves. With “We Are All Immigrants: Stories About the Places We’re From,” you’ll hear from those most acutely affected by changing policies and a shifting reality, those who exist as part of multiple cultures at once. Here, London-based professor and writer Emma Dabiri explores what being an immigrant means to her and to her family.

And although my parents were born and raised in countries not their own, I’m not sure that the term immigrant applies to them in the way it does to me.

I was born in Dublin and have lived in London for almost 20 years—since I finished school—which quite straightforwardly makes me an Irish immigrant. Ostensibly I am Irish, but when the inevitable “Where do you come from?” is asked, that answer, rarely, if ever, satisfies people. Race, it would appear, complicates things…

Read the entire article here.

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No doubt I am mixed, but I’m mixed and black. Blackness can accommodate mixedness, in a way that whiteness, with its myths of purity cannot.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-11-20 04:55Z by Steven

No doubt I am mixed, but I’m mixed and black. Blackness can accommodate mixedness, in a way that whiteness, with its myths of purity cannot. In some contexts I am black, in others mixed, sometimes I am Irish, others Nigerian (white is still off limits), but I am always me, always with the potential to identify as any of these things.

Emma Dabiri, “Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names,” Dublin Inquirer, October 25, 2017. https://www.dublininquirer.com/2017/10/25/emma-on-whether-irish-black-people-are-woke-and-on-changing-foreign-names/.

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Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names

Posted in Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2017-11-20 04:46Z by Steven

Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names

Dublin Inquirer
2017-10-25

Emma Dabiri


Illustration by Rob Mirolo

Do you think Irish black people are woke? What’s being woke? Is there any civil-rights movement? You’re mixed race, so are you black? Africa: would someone like yourself get the culture? What did you get culture-wise from your father’s side? Irish people come across as just trying to look for one person they can say… Yes, here is our black successful person, as opposed to uplift black Irish people in general […] In Dublin, Pavee Point has a centre. The LGBT community has Outhouse. Why do you think ethnic minorities don’t have such a place?

Cheeky! This is like 10 questions but I like ‘em, so let’s go. Let’s start with explaining “woke”. “Staying woke” refers to questioning the dominant paradigm, and occupying a state of awareness about structural oppressions.

The phrase “staying woke” has some early references in the 1960s, it was then further popularised in the 2008 song “Master Teacher” by Erykah Badu, but really caught on following the wave of protest after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the subsequent rise of Black Lives Matter. In 2016, “woke” entered into the Oxford Dictionary

…Am I black? Gosh you aren’t shying away from the big questions, now are ye? But yes, I identify as black. The thing is, despite being told I was black (and often not so politely) my whole damn life, and often being reminded that I wasn’t “really Irish”, my claiming of my blackness still elicits occasional cries of “But what about your ma?” or “You’re erasing your Irishness!” Blah blah di blah blah blah.

I think what we really need to look at is why a person with a white parent can identify as black, but why a person with a black parent can rarely, if ever, identify as white. We have to stop acting as though racial constructions are rational or ordered. They are not. I always say that you cannot be “half white”. You are either white or you’re not. And I’m not…

Read the entire article here.

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Whiteness is “pure” and doesn’t extend to brown girls, even those who can trace their Irish ancestry back to the 10th century.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-19 01:57Z by Steven

Specifically, many of the problems arose out of my claims of Irishness itself. That was what really seemed to offend people’s sensibilities. Irishness is synonymous with whiteness, it seemed. Whiteness is “pure” and doesn’t extend to brown girls, even those who can trace their Irish ancestry back to the 10th century. How frequently I heard that I “wasn’t really Irish”. But I am Irish. In addition to being born there, my mother, her parents before her, and theirs before them, for generations and generations, are all Irish.

Emma Dabiri, “I’m Irish but I’m not white. Why is that still a problem as we celebrate the Easter Rising?,” The Guardian, March 29, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/29/irish-white-easter-rising-ireland-racism.

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“So my mum was Irish but she’s Trinidadian, and my dad’s Nigerian but he’s Irish.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-11-19 15:11Z by Steven

[Emma] Dabiri’s own story serves as a typically atypical example. Her mother was born to white Irish parents in Trinidad, where Dabiri’s maternal grandfather worked as a civil engineer. Her father was born to black Nigerian parents in Ireland before moving back to Nigeria, and Dabiri herself was raised in her paternal grandparents’ house in Atlanta, Georgia, before returning to Dublin aged five. In summary? “So my mum was Irish but she’s Trinidadian, and my dad’s Nigerian but he’s Irish,” she laughs.

Ellen E. Jones, “BBC’s Emma Dabiri says her first time in Brixton was like discovering a black utopia,” Evening Standard, November 17, 2016. http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/bbcs-emma-dabiri-says-her-first-time-in-brixton-was-like-discovering-a-black-utopia-a3397851.html.

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BBC’s Emma Dabiri says her first time in Brixton was like discovering a black utopia

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-19 01:14Z by Steven

BBC’s Emma Dabiri says her first time in Brixton was like discovering a black utopia

London Evening Standard
2016-11-17

Ellen E. Jones


BBC presenter Emma Dabiri in Brixton Matt Writtle

She’s a SOAS fellow and former model, and now Emma Dabiri is fronting a new BBC show as part of the broadcaster’s Black and British season. She talks race, immigration and the politics of hair

There are many ways of being black and British. More than two million at the last count. Some of these are being celebrated, explored or simply presented this month as part of the BBC’s Black and British season. Programming strands include history, music, football and family life, all of which come together nicely in Back in Time for Brixton, which begins on Monday.

This spin-off from the hugely enjoyable social history series Back in Time For Dinner follows the Irwin family from Dagenham as they go on a time-travelling adventure through  50 years of black British life, recreating interiors, hobbies, talking points and hairdos as they go.

Giles Coren is reprising his presenting role but this time specialist expertise is provided by Emma Dabiri. She is a SOAS fellow in African Studies, a broadcaster and occasional model (her Twitter handle is @thediasporadiva), so there’s plenty to talk about when we meet in the Ritzy cinema’s café, a short walk from Brixton Tube station.

“I think sometimes, when there are attempts at diversity, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’ll just pop a black person in there and that’s diversity’,” she says of the need for the BBC’s season. “But here the emphasis is actually on black stories and black people. Representing all those different versions of blackness is really important, especially at this moment when the issue of British identity is such as it is.”

Dabiri’s own story serves as a typically atypical example. Her mother was born to white Irish parents in Trinidad, where Dabiri’s maternal grandfather worked as a civil engineer. Her father was born to black Nigerian parents in Ireland before moving back to Nigeria, and Dabiri herself was raised in her paternal grandparents’ house in Atlanta, Georgia, before returning to Dublin aged five. In summary? “So my mum was Irish but she’s Trinidadian, and my dad’s Nigerian but he’s Irish,” she laughs.

Although Dabiri, 37, has lived in Hackney since 2000, Brixton retains a special place in her imagination. The first time she ever set foot in London was as a child, when her mother brought her to Brixton to have her hair styled: “In comparison with Ireland at the time it seemed like this black utopia.”…

Read the entire article here

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