In the United States, black hair—that is, the hair of African-descended peoples—has a long and fraught political, economic, and social history that informs its contemporary reception: at the interstices of self-making, aesthetic expression, and respectability politics, black hair has been both overdetermined and underexplored as a site of intellectual inquiry. This essay aims to offer a critical examination of natural black hair as a central site of interpersonal negotiation for black women in the United States. Drawing on performance studies, cultural studies, and black feminist studies, I offer black hair haptics as an analytic for the racialized and gendered dimensions of quotidian public interpersonal engagement with black hair as an extension of the black body. I argue that black hair is a unique site of analysis for transgressions of socially appropriate interpersonal interaction.

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