Jasmine Nichole Cobb, "Tactility and the Texture of Racial Capitalism"
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Coming out of the Civil Rights Movement and political struggles of the middle-twentieth century, the Afro has endured as an icon of black liberation aesthetics. Through a mixed-media archive of photojournalism and print advertisements, this particular black hairstyle has often been associated with the term "freedom" without sufficient exploration of hair's suppression in public culture and visual representation. This talk explores the historical and cultural contexts informing repression where black hair is a stand in for black aesthetics. I argue that the shifting significations associated with "natural hair" begins with slavery, but endures through racial capitalism. Accordingly, this talk thinks through hair as an image and images about hair in order to limn the relationship between black visual culture and capitalism, shifting our scholarly focus away from issues of entrepreneurship, labor and commodification, and toward a question of violence. Hair as a kind of media presents an opportunity to think about representations of black freedom, but also through questions about race, citizenship and social mobility.
Jasmine Nichole Cobb is the Bacca Foundation Associate Professor of African & African American Studies.