Hey y'all! I’m Tina, a recent graduate in Biological Anthropology form the University of Cambridge. My research focuses on the evolution of human hair diversity - something which is severely under-researched, despite the fact that its one of the most visibly varying traits we humans have!
I was offered a place to do my PhD at Cambridge, but alas, funding did not come through. I will reapply Cambridge, but I’ve also spoken to some really amazing Professors at Penn State and Harvard University who’ve encouraged me to apply to their graduate programs and work with them on this project, but I simply cannot afford the cost of applications before the deadlines , so I am crowdfunding over the next 10 days (check it out).
My bachelor’s thesis was entitled Human Hair Diversity: Quantitative variation of hair fibre shape and pigmentation. The department liked it and awarded it a Starred First (82) and my supervisor and I are working on a publication for a peer-reviewed journal based on this research right now. I ended up finding a lot of interesting things that I’m dying to share with you all! (And hopefully I will be able to share that publication with you all in a few months)
To keep it brief, I’m interested in answering questions such as:
Why did humans evolve such a wide range of hair textures and colours?
Do certain textures/colours provide an evolutionary advantage?
Why did humans lose all their body hair but keep their scalp hair?
My BA thesis is a step in the right direction, but having the opportunity to dedicate an entire PhD to this would bring this field out of the dark ages. And I do not exaggerate when I say that, a lot of studies published in scientific journals will describe hair in categories such as “wavy”, “woolly”, “blond” “red” despite the fact that we have the methods to describe the detailed morphology and chemically structure of hair - and using these methods would be a much more objective approach to studying it!
But unfortunately, a lot of researchers use categories like the ones described above, or even worse they will divide hair into: “African”, “Asian” and “European” hair, completely ignoring anyone who does not fall into those categories and completely homogenizing the massive numbers of populations which fall within these vast geographic regions.
Answering questions about human hair diversity is part of understanding human phenotypic variation - essentially, it’s part of understanding why we look different. I plan to make sure the public can access and understand all of the work that I do + any relevant information on the evolution of human (hair) diversity through my website.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, there’s even more info on the website humanhairdiversity.com and I will be using the hashtag #HairEvolutionPhD across platforms, follow me on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to hear more about it. And I would really appreciate it if you can support the campaign in any way you can, since I need to reach a minimum of £430 by the end (or I receive nothing), I can assure you that every little bit helps immensely! So, here is the crowdfunding page again.
A hairstyle structures a person’s face, look, and reflects personality. There are so many ways to style hair that it’s hard to just pick one; whether it be braids, cornrows, or plaits, all styles can become an incredible work of art. The ‘art’ of the hairstyle has been developed over centuries and many African hairstyles — geometric, graphic, or edgy — are as precise as any piece of visual art. Considered part of the hairstyle, the headwrap — commonly called ‘gele’ in Nigeria —can also be used as a major fashion statement. In 1968, photographer J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere started documenting Nigerian hairstyles and developed a collection of 1,000 portraits, simply titled Hairstyles. The pictures depict the real African woman, without any pretension and with captivating and spectacular beauty. You can currently view Ojeikere’s vintage Hairstyles series at the 55th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia until November 24, 2013.
Roots’ is Mukundwa Katuliiba’s final year dissertation film about the effects of apartheid on black women’s relationship with their hair. It was filmed in South Africa and features several mother-daughter pairs who discuss their own and others’ perceptions of their hair. In the description of the video Katuliiba states, “In any racist regime, ‘signs and symbols’ of blackness are always attacked and framed as inferior.” During the apartheid in South Africa between 1948 and 1994, the standards of how Black people in the country should present themselves changed. “Thus, black hair and skin are very [politicized] parts of the black body and experience: most especially when black bodies are in largely white environments.”
Katuliiba adds that she recognizes apartheid, white supremacy, black self-love and women’s issues cannot be tackled within 10 minutes. “Many of the nuances in these issues are utterly beyond the scope of this short, academic film.” Her film is a place to continue the conversation.