Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Redefining the Identity of Black Women: "Natural" Hair and the Natural Hair Movement
by Henderson, Amber, M.A., The George Washington University, 2015, 78; 1582928
Abstract (Summary)

This study examines young, Black women's hair practices and perspectives within the current wave of the Natural Hair Movement. Based on twelve in-depth interviews with Black women in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, this analysis uses Black feminist thought and standpoint theory to center the concept of "natural" hair and explore participants' relationships to it. The analysis is attentive to the ways family, peers, and media have influenced Black women's hair practices and perspectives, and grounds these in the history of racialized, gendered, and class-related perceptions of Black women's hair. My interviews reveal that "natural" has become such a desirable label that even Black women in this study who straighten their hair consider themselves "natural" due to the term's newfound subjective meaning. This indicates that the Natural Hair Movement has contributed to the rhetorical success of this label, even while its meaning has now expanded so broadly that it includes nearly every hair care practice other than chemical relaxing. While some may argue that this inclusive definition of "natural" dilutes an important cultural distinction between Afrocentric and Eurocentric hair practices, it may also indicate that these Black women seek not to be divided over hairstyle preferences but rather, seek a collective identity as Black women who are free to make informed choices on the basis of what is important to them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ken, Ivy
Commitee: Deitch, Cynthia
School: The George Washington University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 54/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: African American Studies, Black studies, Womens studies
Keywords: African american women, Black hair, Black women, Hair, Natural hair, Natural hair movement
Publication Number: 1582928
ISBN: 9781321529951
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