From the Kitchen to the Parlor: Language and Becoming in African American Women's Hair Care / Edition 1

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When is hair "just hair" and when is it not "just hair"? Documenting the politics of African American women's hair, this multi-sited linguistic ethnography explores everyday interaction in beauty parlors, Internet discussions, comedy clubs, and other contexts to illuminate how and why hair matters in African American women's day-to-day experiences.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This work is not only deeply original but it is also brave: Jacobs-Huey has tackled a range of issues that are highly charged, both in the arena of racial politics and, even trickier for her, in negotiating her own place in multiple communities of practice. That she so successfully balances the scholarly, the political, and the personal is testament to her rare combination of considerable analytic talent with keen political and emotional intelligence."—Sally McConnell-Ginet, Department of Linguistics, Cornell University, co-author of Language and Gender

"Dr. Jacobs-Huey's research on the symbolic and moral meanings of hair in African American communities invigorates the analysis of the linguistic and social construction of personal and group identity. Jacobs-Huey demonstrates that 'hair is not just hair' in the eyes of African Americans, a social fact that, she argues, evidences a wide gulf between European American and African American women. Jacobs-Huey examines how the racial divide is invisible to Euro American women but blatantly obvious to African American women. Jacobs-Huey's study is the first to document how hair is represented in everyday African American verbal interactions across cultrually potent settings related tot he management of hair. These settings include hair salons, cosmetology training institutes, and, fascinatingly, stand-up comedy."—Elinor Ochs, Department of Anthropology, UCLA, 1998 MacArthur Fellow

"The topic of this book is of great interest to me and other (African American) women for the very reasons Jacobs-Huey explains: Sometimes hair is just hair and sometimes hair is not just hair. In the African American community, hair can be a very touchy, private, painful, prideful, celebratory, 'burning' thing. It is to be approached with caution. Jacobs-Huey does that in this book, and she also tells us about the many meanings, nuances and travails, of hair and its meanings among African American women."—Sonja Lanehart, Department of English, University of Georgia, author of Sista, Speak!: Black Women Kinfolk Talk about Language and Literacy

"Linguistic anthropologist Lanita Jacobs-Huey is staking her claim as the Zora Neale Hurston of African American hair care research, immersing herself as participant observer in the culture of Black cosmetology. Combining childhood experiences as a cosmetologist's daughter with training as a keen-eyed scholar, she deciphers the emotionally nuanced, politically charged language of hair and its often contradictory interpretations in the Black community. From Internet chat rooms to hair weaving seminars, she searches the complex continuum between 'kitchen beauticians' and 'hair doctors,' all the while delving into the mix of science, religion, health, and beauty that creates the underpinnings for verbal and non-verbal negotiations about hair among African American women."—A'Lelia Bundles, Author, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195304169
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/20/2006
  • Series: Studies in Language and Gender Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Lanita Jacobs-Huey is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and co-affiliated with the Program in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: From the Kitchen to the Parlor
1. Negotiating Expert and Novice Identities through Client-stylist Interactions
2. "We Are Like Doctors": Socializing Cosmetologists into the Discourse of Science
3. A License to Touch: Cosmetology as a Divine Calling
4. Gender, Authenticity, and Hair in African American Stand-up Comedy
5. "BTW, How Do You Wear Your Hair?": Gender and Race in Computer-mediated Hair Debates
6. Constructing and Contesting Knowledge in Women's Cross-cultural Hair Testimonies
7. Critical Reflections on Language, Gender, and "Native" Anthropology
Appendix: Transcription Conventions

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