Don’t Touch My Hair

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2019-01-12 02:19Z 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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None of this is about flattery, it’s about power, desire and ownership. A sinister reminder that people who once owned our bodies, still can, and of the troubled history and deep seated taboos that continue to define race relations between black and white in the 21st century.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-11-24 02:11Z by Steven

By the 20th century these stories had morphed into stereotypes about “mixed-race” black women, which migrated into popular culture, where we now had the privilege of being represented as “tragic mulattos”; according to white supremacist discourse, the mulatto did not have the “right to live” the US senator Charles Carroll said in 1900. We were an abomination who disrupted the racial order, and as a result of our pathology were emotionally unstable, yet we were still perceived as seductresses. And that’s why it’s no coincidence that when these online imposters post as their light-skin black alter egos they post thirst-traps with sultry eyes and pouty mouths, yet in photographs as their white selves, they remain smilingly wholesome girls next door. They are operating in familiar terrain, reinforcing topes that emerged out of slavery and which have been developed and refined via mass media throughout the 20th and 21st century. None of this is about flattery, it’s about power, desire and ownership. A sinister reminder that people who once owned our bodies, still can, and of the troubled history and deep seated taboos that continue to define race relations between black and white in the 21st century.

Emma Dabiri, “white girls reinventing themselves as black women on instagram has to stop,” i-D, November 20, 2018. https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/nepzyg/white-girls-instagram-blackface-blackfishing.

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white girls reinventing themselves as black women on instagram has to stop i-D

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, Women on 2018-11-21 22:28Z by Steven

white girls reinventing themselves as black women on instagram has to stop

i-D
Vice
2018-11-20

Emma Dabiri


Instagram influencer Emma Halberg has been accused of altering her looks to appear black. She denies the accusations. Images via social media.

As a recent Twitter storm brought attention to social media blackface, Emma Dabiri looks at the cultural history of this racist practice and its links to black women being perceived as sexually available.

Last week a Twitter thread went viral for calling out white girls on Instagram and YouTube, some of them with huge followings, who are seemingly using various methods to transform their faces and bodies so they look “mixed-race” – though some have denied that’s what they’re doing, blaming their change on a propensity to deeply tan. Various media outlets are referring to this as “blackfishing”, but there is another name for it, which more clearly links this practice to its racist past. While “ni**erfishing” sounds like a sport from the good ole days when AMERICA WAS GREAT, when a picnic wasn’t a picnic without a black body swinging in the southern breeze, it is in fact a phenomenon all our own, from the year of our good lord 2018. N**erfishing is this cute lil trick whereby white girls literally reinvent themselves online, on Instagram and Youtube, as “mixed-race” or light-skinned black women. From our complexion to our lips and other facial features, to textured hair and the use of protective styles, weaves and braids — there is little to separate these white women visually from black women…

Read the entire article here.

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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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