CMI Auto Biography Research Cluster Meeting
  • Room 210, Rolle Building, Plymouth University

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The Centre for Methodological Innovations (CMI) are pleased to invite you to the next meeting of the Auto Biography Research Cluster discussion group. We are delighted to be joined by Dr Louise Owusu-Kwarteng of Greenwich University who will be presenting her paper entitled ''Whoever Holds the Scissors/Relaxer Holds the Power: an auto/biographical reflection of my experience of Black hairdressers'. 

Dr Owusu-Kwarteng says, "Our hair and the hairstyles we choose are ‘inextricably linked’ to our identity and how we present ourselves (Bankhead and Johnson 2013:87). For black women, ‘hair’ is also a continual source of political debate. These centre around choice of particular styles, such as chemical straightening/relaxing and/or weaves, and whether this means that we are presenting ourselves in ways that reflect European, hegemonic standards of beauty, as a way of rejecting negative representations of ‘tightly curled’ African hair, which are rooted in slavery. Conversely, are the growing numbers of black women (including me) who opt against ‘relaxed’ hair or weaves, in favour of short ‘natural’ hair choosing to present ourselves in ways that appear to be making a political statement that reject these hegemonic standards of beauty? Is this ‘statement’ reminiscent of the 1960s era of black pride, when ‘natural’ hair became an ‘identifiable marker’ of this movement? Or are these hairstyles simply a matter of choice and/or convenience? With reference to Erving Goffman’s work on the presentation of self (1959), Anthony Giddens’ (1991) research on identity in late modernity and that of Bankhead and Johnson (2013), whose research examines black women’s hair politics, this autobiographical account explores my experience of these issues, and the impacts on my ‘presentation of self’ at different stages in my life. I also reflect upon the ways in which this type of ‘hair politics’ have often had an impact on my experiences as a consumer in black hair salons. I also discuss other consumer experiences within this context, such as the extraordinary lengths of time taken by hairdressers to complete our chosen hairstyles, and how this has a bearing on our perception of customer service. It also explores the power relationships between the hairstylist/salon owners and the clients, which become evident in these situations. In exploring these issues, I draw on Freund and McGuire who explore relations between power and time, and also Foucault’s notions of power (1984)." 

Dr Owusu-Kwarteng is originally from Nottingham but currently lives in London where she studied for her undergraduate and doctoral degrees. She is the programme leader for Sociology at the University of Greenwich. Her research specialisms centre around Race and educational experience with particular interest in students from African backgrounds, ethnicity, intra ethnic relations and identity and autobiography in sociology.

The CMI Auto Biography Research Cluster began in 2013 and has hosted a number of discussion groups on various topics since then, including 'Emotions', 'Creative Approaches to Presenting Auto Biography' and 'Exploring the Experiences of Lifelong Learners'. It is an ideal opportunity to explore how we each engage/hope to engage with auto/biographical approaches and practices and the issues we face.

This event is free to attend but booking is essential via the above link. 

Please do not hesitate to contact the IHC for further information (email:

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