Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



The history of colonial and racial oppression made hair stories and testimonials fundamental to understanding hair as a unifying element particular for women of African descent in the post-slavery era. Seen as such, their hair narrations provide the first-person perspective of their life experiences while at the same time inviting a critical investigation of colonial and racial oppression. Contemporary women writers develop these types of narrations into a special language of hair that helps them tell a story that is not apparent or straightforward. This literary device that uses hair to uncover deeper social and political issues is bound up in identity politics that I call hair narrative. In my dissertation, I will analyze the works of authors from France, the United States, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Nigeria: George Sand’s Indiana(1832), Toni Morrison’s Beloved(1987), Fabienne Kanor’s D’eaux Douces(2004), Gisèle Pineau’s Fleur de Barbarie(2005), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah(2013), and Rokhaya Diallo’s Afro!(2015). Very few critical works examine portrayals of hair in literature or analyze the meaning of hair representations in women’s writing. In fact, no work has considered interrogating the way the history of hair is reflected in women’s Anglophone and Francophone writing or the techniques women writers use to portray hair-related routines. This project will address this gap in the scholarship by investigating how and to what ends contemporary women writers use hair to tell an ancillary story of mother-daughter relationships, colonial oppression, displacement and diaspora, race and identity.



Committee Chair

Jensen, Katherine A.