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The Power of Hair: Symbols and Metamorphoses


By Béa Aaronson PhD

No other part of the body seems to hold such a variety of symbolic power as the hair. It is both part of our body, and therefore part of our individual identity. Yet at the same time, it can be altered according to taste and fashion, social and religious customs, and political aims. Hair can be covered or revealed, given or revered. Growing quicker than any other part of our body, it is our most visibly living organ and in this sense is a manifestation of life. At the same time, hair is composed entirely of dead cells, thus also projecting our human mortality.

My upcoming lecture, “The Power of Hair: Symbols and Metamorphoses,” will take place at the JC3 on February 27.

At the intersection of anthropology, psychology, the history of ancient and contemporary art, fashion, and manners—crossing over time and space frontiers and over gender boundaries—the culture of hair belongs to all humans. This presentation will examine individual issues of intimacy and sociability through the universal theme of hair. Whether belonging to the traditions of the West, the East, the Middle East, the Far East, the Americas, the Pacific, the North, the South, whether short, long, blond, red, dark, loose or tight, straight or curly, braided, sculpted, colored, shaved, woven into cloth and hats, collaged into art, Hair conjugates all of human behaviors and feelings.

I shall hopefully astonish your sensitivity and acquaint you with unforgettable images from all over the world to disclose hair’s power. Be it seduction and narcissism, rebellion, war, and status symbol, or magical powers and memento mori, I shall show you as many examples as possible, not only in photographs but also in numerous artworks, to illustrate hair’s fascinating eloquence.

In this lecture, you will see how, from the coquetries and spiritual messages of cultures worldwide to haute coiffure and punk, hair has actually succeeded in simultaneously raising and erasing cultural differences. The most obvious example is how punk culture appropriated the rebellious Mohawk from the Kanienkehaka nation. But Jewish side locks, known as peyos, trace back to Cleopatra and the Egyptian pharaohs, and through them to Africa and China and even Rastafarian dreadlock hair culture.

While being a medium for knowledge, the relativity of beauty, and psychological assertion, hair is also an object of spiritual belonging, joy, health, and life, not to mention a symbol of material vanity, of loss, of time passing, of illness, and of death. Consciously or unconsciously, there are a lot of feelings and identity issues wrapped in our locks. Come find out more about it all on February 27 at the JC3.



The Power of Hair: Symbols and Metamorphoses

By Béa Aaronson

Tue, Feb 27, 3:30pm

JC3 Calle de las Moras 47 (corner Cinco de Mayo)

150 pesos per person

130 pesos for members

Reservations: 152 02 36

Please arrive at least 15 minutes before


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