31 May 2023

An Afternoon of Hairy Reflections and Entanglements with Emma Tarlo

When: 31 May 2023, 14.00 - 17.00 CET

Where: Elie van Rijckevorselzaal, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam

Hair is our most intimate fibre saturated with human life. In this session Emma will talk about her ten years of involvement with hair as an anthropologist, writer, crafter and curator. She will discuss her prize-winning book, Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair, which focuses on how detached hair finds its way into unexpected places and forms part of a billion dollar global industry for wigs and extensions. Whether treated as waste, gift, sacred relic or commodity, hair has many stories to tell. Moving between Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, hair workshops and factories across Asia to Jewish wig parlours, Afro Hair Fairs, Hair loss clinics and fashion salons and boutiques in the United States, Britain, Europe and Senegal,  Emma meets people whose lives are touched by hair, whether as  donators, sellers, traders, craftspeople, wig makers, stylists and wearers of extensions and hair pieces. Through these stories we see how hair is connected to every aspect of life from religion, politics and economics to concerns with beauty, health, identity, heritage and belonging.


Emma will also share stories about the exhibition, Hair, Untold Stories, which she co-curated with Sarah Byrne at the Horniman Museum in London (currently on tour at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield until October 2023). The exhibition combines ethnographic objects, art works, film, installations and a wide range of artefacts brought together through collaborations with artists, curators, hair dressers and members of the local community in South East London. The exhibition was designed to showcase and stimulate new conversations about hair.

The afternoon will include a Q&A and opportunities to handle hairy objects from Emma’s personal collection.


Emma Tarlo is a writer, curator and Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Goldsmiths.  Much of her research and writing revolves around material culture and body politics in transnational contexts. She is author of several books including Clothing Matters: dress and identity in India (winner of the Coomaraswamy Prize 1998), Unsettling Memories: Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi (2003) and Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith (2010).

For the last ten years she has been passionately involved with hair. Her book  Entanglement: the Secret Lives of Hair won the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing in 2017. She has since curated a number of exhibitions. Her most recent exhibition, Hair, Untold Stories was co-curated with Sarah Byrne at the Horniman Museum in London (2021-2022) and is currently on tour at Weston Park Museum  Sheffield (February – October 2023).