FYS-132 Bobs, Beehives, Wigs, and Weaves: The Cultural Politics of Hair

Instructor: Assistant Professor Kerry Wallach
Department: German

Course Description:
Women and men from different cultures are confronted with complex hair-related questions on a daily basis: Short or long? Straightened or natural? Traditional or on trend? Covered or uncovered? Wig or cloth head covering? Head scarf or burqa? Weave or extensions? This interdisciplinary course investigates the often politically charged power of hairstyles and hair coverings in the United States and Europe, with a focus on specific minority groups such as Jews, Muslims, and African Americans. By examining visual texts ranging from literature, film, TV, and music videos, to written texts by literary authors, cultural studies scholars, historians, and anthropologists, this course explores how style enables self-expression and cultural identity. It also considers the different contexts in which hair coverings render minority groups publicly visible, with a focus on historical and current issues such as debates surrounding veiling in Germany and France. Topics relating to politics, religion, ethnicity, fashion, taste, gender and sexuality provide a point of departure for interpreting cultural texts. Several field trips to Baltimore and Lancaster County, in addition to several guest lectures, further inform class discussions.