Hairy Matters

Professor Emma Tarlo tracks the global circulation of human hair and its uses and meanings in different milieus.

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Hairy Matters began life as a Leverhulme Trust funded project tracking the global circulation of human hair and its uses and meanings in different milieus. 

It explored the curious status and emotive potential of hair as both body part and body product and tracked how the lives of people situated in radically different locations and circumstances are connected and entangled through hair.

This was the central theme of Emma Tarlo's book, Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair (Oneworld 2016) which was written as a work of anthropological non-fiction with close affinities to the life-writing genre (awarded 2017 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic writing).

In 2018 Tarlo explored different elements of her research through two exhibitions: Material Contemplations in Cloth and Hair (Constance Howard Gallery 2018) - a collaborative exhibition with Janis Jefferies which focussed on the hidden labour in cloth and hair factories in China and Hair!Human Stories (The Library Space, Battersea 2018) -  a mixed media pop up exhibition which combined photography, artworks and textiles made from hair, archival objects, wigs and hairy ephemera.

Sponsored by INFRINGE and The t at Goldsmiths, it involved collaboration with hairdressers from Hackett's salon and members of the public, including Goldsmiths students. A series of workshops including hair felting, hair rope making, embroidering with hair and hair drawing ran alongside the exhibition. 

A short animation, It's only Hair made by Stacy Bias in collaboration with Emma Tarlo, which focuses on the social challenges of hair loss, was first screened at the exhibition and has since been taken up by dermatologists and charities focused on alopecia. It's Only Hair from Department of Anthropology on Vimeo.

It’s Only Hair