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This dissertation surveys contemporary African narratives that take place in the hair salon across time--from the independence era and the structural adjustment programs period to the current migration crisis--as well as across space through Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe; Trenton, New Jersey; and Brussels, BelgiumIn my reading of Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift (2019), Tendai Huchu’s The Hairdresser of Harare (2010), Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013) and Rosine Mbakam’s Chez Jolie Coiffure (2018), I analyze the hair salon as a contact zone where people converge, diverge, and intersect to examine how factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, and nationality influence community building. Through an analysis of the effect of hairdressing on the social relations being forged in this space, I show how contemporary African writers of the diaspora create communities that are under constant construction where power dynamics are produced, reproduced, and transformed, ultimately weaving diverse stories into each community’s narrative. This weaving registers in the narrative form.

Following the presentation, other attendees will have the opportunity to share, discuss, and receive feedback on their own works-in-progress.