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What to expect

Straightened. Stigmatised. ‘Tamed’. Celebrated. Erased. Managed. Appropriated. Forever misunderstood. Black hair is never ‘just hair’.

This book is about why black hair matters and how it can be viewed as a blueprint for decolonisation. Emma Dabiri takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and on to today’s Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars and beyond. We look at everything from hair capitalists like Madam C.J. Walker in the early 1900s to the rise of Shea Moisture today, from women’s solidarity and friendship to ‘black people time’, forgotten African scholars and the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian’s braids.

The scope of black hairstyling ranges from pop culture to cosmology, from prehistoric times to the (afro)futuristic. Uncovering sophisticated indigenous mathematical systems in black hairstyles, alongside styles that served as secret intelligence networks leading enslaved Africans to freedom, Don’t Touch My Hair proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.

Critics Review

  • Emma Dabiri’s groundbreaking Don’t Touch My Hair is a scintillating, intellectual investigation into black women and the very serious business of our hair, as it pertains to race, gender, social codes, tradition, culture, cosmology, maths, politics, philosophy and history, and also the role of hairstyles in pre-colonial Africa

    The Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year
  • FASCINATING, educational, personal, humble and engaging. I urge you to read it!

    Marian Keyes
  • I’ve been pleasantly engrossed this autumn in Emma Dabiri’s nonfiction debut Don’t Touch My Hair. Part memoir, part spiky, thoroughly researched socio-political analysis, it delves deep into the painful realities and history of follicular racism

    Observer Books of the Year
  • Both a richly researched cultural history and a voyage to empowerment.

    Guardian
  • A triumph! Refeshingly accessible, enlightening and thorough … an impeccably researched journey into our Black Hair and the ideas and feelings that have surrounded it, to this day.

    Yrsa Daley-Ward
  • Sensational

    Women's Health

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